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Further: Beyond the Threshold
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on September 6, 2015
Captain Ramachandra Jason Stone is the classic Buck Rogers astronaut by way of a future that doesn't include the U.S., as we were taken out of the game by an asteroid strike, which landed pretty much smack on Hollywood and broke the country. Captain of the Wayfarer, humanity's first starship, he‘d settled down for the long nap while his ship and crew moseyed on towards a not too distant star, but thanks to a micrometeorite impact, woke up twelve thousand years later, the sole survivor of the expedition. The world he wakes to, needless to say doesn't look like the one he left, and on wakening, he even gets his Planet of the Apes moment, when the first person he meets is an evolved dog. The uplifted chimp comes later.

Although humanity looks a lot more diverse than it did when he went into hypersleep, now including lions, tigers, and probably bears, but certainly chimps, as well as elephants and augmented, cloned, or otherwise hacked base line humans, the song remains the same. We're vain, cranky, bemused, and beguiled in the same ways we've always been. The biggest problem humanity faces is probably that we're jaded, and a tad bored.

Which is probably why the AI collective known as the Plenum, nominates him as captain, and their representative, on the experimental FTL starship that's been in the works for the last century or so. We can only hope that things go better for him this time around.

The starship is named Further, and it's a two kilometer sphere with another kilometer worth of ring sticking out from its middle. As such it's more of a giant space station, or habitat, that goes places rather than the classic starship, but it does have a bridge, and there's only one comfy chair in the middle.

That Stone get's so sit in the big chair makes no sense at all, except for all the good will it garners around human space. He's a romantic hero from the past, and he's going to lead us on a bold adventure. In classic Trek fashion, that does mean that he's bumped the woman who'd been looking forward to the job, and is now his XO. The more things change, etc.

What defines being human is a pretty conceit. Humans are Earth born consciousnesses, whether they're based on animal, vegetable, or mineral. Okay, there aren't any vegetable intelligences here, but they'd qualify. The diaspora among the stars counts as human, as long as they play nice. Brutish, warped cultures can get cut off from the star gates that connect all the worlds. Cultures like the Iron Mask, which killed thousands the last time humankind opened the portal to check and see if isolation had taught them manners. Closing the door wasn't easy, but they managed it, though the memory lingers on.

So, Stone jumps at the chance to lead the way to the (further) stars. His (loyal?) crew is along for the adventure, or for a lark, or because they wanted to play dress up in whatever uniform they fancied at pretty much whatever job on the ship they wanted. The price of admission is to have donated a healthy chunk of the currency of the day, energy, to the venture, and although there's a notional command structure, the ship's AI is running things and the captain is just pointing out places he might like to go.

The place he chooses to go is a pulsar that's been acting strange, and which caught the interest of Xerxes, the robotic drone that's part of its own diaspora, seeking strange new worlds in the hope of finding genuinely alien intelligent life. Xerxes was transmitted by data stream to an uninhabited world where human explorers intercepted his data stream and reconstructed him from it. On waking, he looked around at the humans and endearing muttered, "Oh, it’s you."

Gotta love a snarky droid.

When they finally arrive at the star they run smack into the Iron Mask's advance party and a whole lot of clichés, but I'll let you work through that when you get there.

The science feels like it's been cribbed from the better writers out there, but without adding anything new. FTL travel, artificial gravity, Nano machines, and AI can be had by dipping into the works of a few first tier hard-SF authors like Kim Stanley Robinson and Charles Stross, and you've got it made. Slower than light travel? Call it 1/10 the speed of light and nobody will quibble. Artificial gravity? Stick with centripetal force for the most part and you're in good company. If that doesn't suit, jump up to a happy side effect of creating a warp space bubble and who can kick? And when it comes to the life sciences, there's a tried and true tradition there to mine from as well. Nano machinery to keep you in one piece, life extension tech to keep you young, that's all tried and tested SF. Uplifted animals with human intellects? Thank David Brin and the crew of Seeker, though nobody has ever done it better.

The science in Further isn't an issue, but to steal a few words from James Blish, thirteen thousand years in the future evidently all judgment has fled, but all in all it's a fun romp through the stars. In fact, when it was done I found myself grudgingly admitting to myself that I’d read the next episode.
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on May 27, 2014
This book was both an engaging read, and an oddity. By now, you might know the general plot: the main character gets revived from a 12,000 year sleep in a space-exploration mission gone wrong. The world he awakes to is a utopia.

The first 2/3 of the book introduces him and provides a walk through of the future - its world, technologies, people. It was captivating, overall not going terribly in depth into any one facet of culture or technology, but just enough to "feel" it emotionally, and sense what it must be like for this man of our time to experience things totally beyond our capabilities. Also there are lots of interesting twists to technology and new ideas that I really liked (corvid brain-driven mining robots going amok anyone?).

These experiences take up 2/3 of the book.
Then the book transitions into a space action story. A simple one, and even here it continues to be a light, brisk read.
The end of the book sums up some philosophy, imparting some meaning, almost too directly to the reader.

On the downside, some of the traditional story arc and plotting that is common now (raising stakes, internal personal weaknesses to overcome, etc.) are not really present. I never really thought there was much tension, nor danger - even when things get pretty hairy.

** spoiler alert **
Some of it is a little far fetched, too. Like going into the unknown and purposefully depleting your engines to get to an unknown planet. Then, going down to said planet without any precautions, etc.

Also, a few loose ends. At one point the humanity and veracity of the main character is questioned by his second in command. However, no tension develops over this, and this plot line is dropped. Could have been an interesting political or power grab twist.

Overall, I liked the book. It presented and stimulated lots of ideas. Jut know that it reads as a pretty "safe" book for the characters and reader.
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on September 28, 2013
I'm familiar with Roberson's comic book writing but this was the first prose of his I have read. Innovative doesn't begin to describe what is going on in this book. The courage it took to go where he goes with our destiny is to be applauded. The first half of the book spends a lot of time exploring the future as a lost child of humanity comes home after a long time away. As interesting as the ideas in this half of the book are, they get dragged down by the incredibly slow moving plot. This section of the book is like a guided tour through a museum of the future. Unfortunately, I usually prefer to breeze through museums and only stop at the pieces that really interest me.

Contrast that to the second half of the book which is a much more typical space fairing adventure. It's well written, brisk, and exciting. I guess Roberson felt like the stroll of the first section was necessary to warm up for the sprint of the second. He may well be right but I struggled enough during the first part (and almost put the book away for the duration) that it ended up being a really mixed reading experience.
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on October 26, 2017
This is a fabulous story, with wonderful, fleshed-out characters. The world building is phenomenal. This story has a great pace; not too fast but not slow either. Excellent over all!
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on September 17, 2012
I vaguely remember that Isaac Asimov, the great science fiction writer once stated something to the effect that "There are no true science fiction plots... they (this type of genre) are all based on very human plots..." I know I probably botched up that quote. But this book illustrates that point quite nicely. A human space traveler is transported from the 22nd century to 12,000 years into the future. There he encounters: dogs,cats, elephants, and all sorts of animals from the zoo, aquarium, or mythology. They can all reason and speak. Add to these, robots, clones and other sorts and here you have your caste of characters. Actually, the caste of characters is so large that I had trouble keeping up of them all. The plot seems to plod along for the first 75 per cent of the book. The last 25 per cent contains a lot of action: a real old fashioned shoot-out between the good guys and bad guys !
I recommend this book for adolescents of the middle grade to early high school age. I believe it was written for them.
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on October 7, 2017
Interesting concept on space travel and culture. I really didn't know what to expect from the description on Amazon. Hoping there is a second book.
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on February 14, 2014
The writing and description in Robertson's work are excellent, and he is fairly creative. However, billing this story as sci-fi would not be 100% accurate, in my opinion.
My reason for saying this, is that the technology described in Robertson's work often gets excessive handwavium treatment, feeling in the end too much like mass-scale magic, where other things are excessively dissected for detail when they don't necessarily need the same treatment. Much of the first half of this book was spent in lectures about a particular culture or character that didn't end up being of any necessary consequence, or describing the sort of wide-eyed culture shock one might expect from earth-man-meets-future-world stories such as the first couple of episodes of the TV series Farscape. Fans of the aforementioned series might like this one, as well as those with a love of science-fantasy series such as Star Wars.
I would also be willing to put five dollars down on a bet saying that author Robertson is probably a furry. :D
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on January 28, 2014
Set 12,000 years into the future, Roberson is at complete liberty creating a universe all his own. Recreating his vision can be mind boggling at times and that's what makes it such a fun read. I was often left with the thought: "how does he come up with this?!" That, along with a solid storyline with many underlying themes and witty dialogue that is downright hilarious at times easily makes this one of my favorite books.

Granted, he frequently used vocabulary that seemed unnecessarily... elevated, for lack of a better term, but seeing as the story was a science fiction work set millennia in the future, it strangely seemed to work in its own way. Plus, being able to be instantly presented with definitions on my kindle fire was a huge help and made it less of a bother.

All in all, I'm eagerly awaiting the next installment!
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on February 3, 2014
This book is a refreshing change from what seems to be an endless supply of universe off-shoots, and apocalyptic sagas. Science fiction is supposed to open your mind to new possibilities that you've never even thought about before. Good Science fiction will also include something about the human spirit as well. All of which makes this book Great Science fiction. The author jumps right into it almost as soon as you start reading. Each paragraph more intriguing then the next. He never bogs you down with too much science, or too much psychology, or too much of anything except the story. It's a wonderfully crafted story told in a way that will leave you desperately wanting more. If this book is any indication what this authors future works will be like, I can't wait to see more. Thank you! Dahak72@yahoo.com
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on October 13, 2013
Goodreads people know what a "beach read" is. Light, fun reading while nestled comfortably in a chair at the beach. I'd want to be in the shade to avoid sunburn, but reading my Kindle Paperwhite is even fun in the sun.

The future painted by the author is a bit implausible and there are lots of logical disconnects. But if you can treat this as space opera -- have "a willing suspension of disbelief", you can enjoy it more. Cigar-smoking intellectually "uplifted" chimp? Just go with it. (After all, you have read "Brightness Reef" (Uplift Trilogy, Book 1 by David Brin) haven't you?)

A few things put me off a bit and lowered my rating and enjoyment:
-- an odd play-out of a supposed romantic interest
-- anti-religion references
-- a weird invented pronoun for a future part AI "person" that irked me
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