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Permanence Hardcover – May 17, 2002

3.6 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

After his well-received first SF novel, Ventus (2000), Canadian Schroeder offers a complex, conceptually satisfying story of interstellar intrigue, cosmology, theology and nanotechnology. The scattered members of the book's far-future intergalactic culture inhabit either space stations (aka "halo" communities) around brown dwarf stars that are supplied by Cycler craft on prescribed, intergalactic routes or "lit" planets with fusion-based suns that are linked by faster-than-light ships. Meadow-Rue Rosebud Cassels, a young woman living on the space station Allemagne and eager to escape her violent half-brother, discovers an alien artifact once possessed by a succession of militaristic individuals, both human and alien. Rue's artifact, apparently a new Cycler, ignites a struggle for money and power that alternately switches her from outcast to important property owner. As Rue masters political infighting and battle tactics, she picks up such loyal followers as Michael, a mystic and anthropologist, and Max, her resourceful cousin. Amid all the fast-paced space adventure, some readers may wish for clearer details to help guide them from one scene to the next. The narrative fairly bursts with interesting ideas, like the religion of Neo-Shintoism and the philosophy of Permanence, but the result too often resembles digressions that belong in an anthropology study, not a novel. In truth, the author packs in enough material for several volumes. Yet Schroeder knows how to entertain and should continue to build an audience across a broad range of SF fans.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School-In this future, humans have long-since mastered the art of surviving in alien environments but have become divided. Pioneer Halo Worlders settled brown dwarfs between the visible stars, and adapted with daring, art, and creativity. But when faster-than-light travel was discovered, the richer, more monolithic Rights Economy claimed the Earth-like planets of the "lit" stars; that society's overriding principle has been ownership-of everything. The human need for enlightenment expresses itself through Permanence, a non-metaphysical religious order seeking the eternal survival of our species. In a beginning reminiscent of classic Heinlein, scrappy young Rue daringly escapes from a bad situation and heads for her home in Halo World; she happens upon an alien artifact that promises to make her rich but instead lands her in a galactic crisis and she must find her sea legs fast. Meanwhile, in a Rights Economy project, Michael, a monk in the outlawed NeoShinto order, is assisting in a scientific study of extinct alien civilizations as he covertly collects their kami, or essence. Rue, Michael, and a large cast of equally colorful characters must determine the correct use of mysterious alien technology and then fight like the dickens if their species is to survive. This suspenseful, complex tale asks many intriguing questions and illustrates more scientific principles than a semester of science labs. Some readers might not quite follow all of the rapid twists and turns, but they will want to hang on to reach the story's satisfying conclusion, where a thoughtful solution emerges amid plenty of fireworks.
Christine C. Menefee, Fairfax County Public Library, VA
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; 1st edition (May 17, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 076530371X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765303714
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.4 x 9.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,080,289 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Peter D. Tillman VINE VOICE on January 17, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Permanence is set in the 25th century, when humanity has
settled dozens of extrasolar planets -- the so-called "lit worlds" -- and
thousands of brown-dwarf colonies -- the halo worlds. All the
colonies were linked by big, NAFAL [note 1] starships, each travelling
a fixed circuit of worlds -- the cyclers [note 2]. The cyclers never stop, as
the energy cost to boost them to relativistic speeds is, well,
astronomical. Ultralight shuttles transfer passengers, crew and cargo at
each port.

Permanence is a quasi-religious order set up to support the great
starships, and to preserve human civilization for the indefinitely long
future. It's a noble and admirable organization, which has been
seriously disrupted by the recent discovery of FTL travel -- which, it
turns out, will only work near a full-size star. FTL travel is *much*
cheaper than the sublightspeed cyclers, so the halo worlds' economies,
and the Cycler Compact, are near collapse. It gets worse -- the lit worlds
are joining the new Earth-based Rights Economy, an aggressively-
centralized property-rights setup that forbids any non-commercial
transactions. Hmm -- could this be socially-conscious Canada vs. the
great, grasping Colossus of the South? (The halo worlds are cold, too...)

Meadow-Rue Rosebud Cassells lit out from Allemagne station when
her bullying brother got to be too much. Enroute to Erythrion, Rue
discovers, and files a claim on, a new comet. [Minor *SPOILER*
warning -- but no more than is on the dust-jacket.] Her claim is denied
-- her 'comet' is really a spaceship -- but then reinstated: it's not
a *human* spaceship, and it doesn't answer calls, though the drive is
still working.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Karl Schroeder is a fairly new Science Fiction author ("Permanence" is only his second novel in this genre). The author writes on an epic scale, and has big ideas that are liberally scattered throughout his novels. I bought this book because of an automated recommendation from Amazon.com, and I am glad I did.
"Permanence" is both the name of a space-age religion and the desire of a space-faring humanity, in a universe where no civilization is truly permanent. The protagonist is a young girl, Rue, who escapes from her abusive brother, discovers an alien spaceship, and goes on to have world-shaking adventures involving the ship and its alien technology. The author's use of high technology in his stories is easy and natural, for example, shared virtual reality (inscapes) and nanotechnology are seamlessly integrated into the way of life for Rue and her contemporaries.
The plot of "Permanence" revolves around a clash between the Cycler Compact (worlds united by spaceships capable only of slower-than light travel) and the Rights Economy (worlds united by faster-than light spaceship travel). The scope of the plot spans numerous planets and living environments, with aliens and alien cultures and concepts. The plot involves a clash of cultures, economies, politics, philosophies, and religions. The book is chock full of new ideas and concepts.
I read "Permanence" straight through from start to finish. It was a thoroughly engaging read with a satisfying ending. The only reason I am giving this book 4 stars and not 5 is that the author's characterization still needs a bit of work, as the emotions and thoughts of some of the characters are slightly juvenile. Nonetheless, it was a very enjoyable read, and I hope the author continues to put out excellent hard Science Fiction, well into the future.
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Format: Hardcover
Permanence, is at once exhilarating and frustrating. Exhilarating because it attacks a truly worthwhile larger SFnal theme in an original fashion, coming to original conclusions; and because it is packed with clever technological and scientific notions, and with some awe-inspiring vistas. Frustrating because much of the impact of this is dissipated by the unconvincing characters, and by an overwrought plot complete with sneering cardboard villains. The good outweighs the bad, I think: this book is fun to read and thoughtful, and its resolution is believable. But it falls short of its potential.
The two main characters are Meadow-Rue Cassels, a young woman from a poor comet-like world who stumbles across a valuable object that may be of alien origin, and Michael Bequith, a scientist and monk who helps study the ruins of alien races. The book also concerns some political machinations between the richer worlds linked by Faster-Than-Light travel, and the older, decaying, "Halo" worlds linked by Slower-Than_Light "cyclers".
Also central to the book is the pursuit of the goal of "Permanence": the formation of a culture with the prospect of permanent existence. Rue's discovery, of a hitherto completely unknown alien artifact, may be a key to this goal.
The eventual explanation of the nature of the artifact is very interesting. Furthermore, the conclusions reached about the prospects for true "Permanence", and about the differences between an STL culture and an FTL culture, are also nicely handled. In addition, there is a neat alien race, and a fair amount of very clever tech.
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