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Spider Star Hardcover – March 4, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
This hectic tale of ancient aliens on an artificial world orbits the star-sized egos of zealous archeologist Manuel Rusk and altruistic interstellar explorer Frank Klingston. After Rusk accidentally sets off a defense system left on colony world Argo by long-gone aliens, the two must travel to the near-mythical world called Spider Star in hopes of finding someone who can turn it off before it bombs the colony into oblivion. Upon arrival, Klingston and some of the crew are captured by spiderlike aliens and rushed through the corridors of the Star in scenes resembling the disjointed action of a video game, while Rusk takes to the air in a rather improbable balloon. The premise of an artificial environment and multiple alien races has potential, but the realization is incomplete and the characterization stereotypical, so readers will respond primarily to the story's strong and reliable pacing (though with a rather rushed denouement) and intriguing premise. (Mar.)
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“Star Dragon is steeped in cosmology, the physics of interstellar travel, exobiology, artificial intelligence (in the form of the ship's brain, which is modeled on Ernest Hemingway), bioscience, and other things...a dramatic, provocative, utterly convincing hard-science sf novel that includes an ironic twist that fans will love.”
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All this and I am not a reader of hard sci-fi. I'm really not the target market and I still loved it. Try a sample if it's not something you'd usually pick up. Buy it if you're a hard sci-fi fan.
One of the best aspects of the book is that it has a lot of heart, especially in the way that it handles the motivations of its main characters. For the most part these feel like real people making real mistakes and decisions in a very difficult situation. The relationships between these characters--in particular the romance sub-plots--aren't very well drawn though, which detracts from a number of the things that we are supposed to care about. There are also several questionable decisions made by characters in this book, but as I mentioned earlier I feel those decisions lend themselves to the reality of the characters. In fact decision making is one of the main themes running through the book (how do you make decisions when there is no rule book to follow? What is the right thing to do in an impossible situation).
Still there are some great themes of sacrifice and family that continued to pull me through the book.
Probably my other favorite aspect of the book was the science, which is very well laid out. Fans of physics will find a lot to enjoy in the setting of this book, which definitely pushes some boundaries. It's a pretty good mix of fiction theoretical physics that comes together to create a cohesive (if bizarre) setting. I was also impressed with the way the writer worked to incorporate other sciences. Often with hard sci-fi all you get is a lot of physics jargon, but this book mixed in archeology, medicine, military, linguistics, and computers.
The writing itself has some nice moments of humor, but can be occasionally too dry. There are some fantastic visuals in this book, but you'll have to use your imagination to conjure many of them as the descriptions tend to tell without showing very well.
All in all I actually quite enjoyed this book. I recommend you give it a try if you like hard sci-fi.
The military conducts a training exercise on Argo's inner moon Charybdis. Commander Manuel Rusk inadvertently turns on a defense system left behind by the aliens that ignites the sun to send trajectories of fire at the planet. Based on interpreting records to save the colony, Rusk believes he must journey to Spider Star where he hopes an expert exists who can turn off the switch. He and space explorer Frank Klingston lead an expedition that makes it to Spider Star; only to have most of the landing party including Klingston taken prisoner by spider-like aliens while robots attack Rusk.
This is an exciting fast-paced futuristic outer space thriller with an interesting unique climax to the Argo extinction issue although there are some seemingly implausible moments especially on Spider Star. Rusk and Klingston are heroic FIs (F**ken idiots) as they blunder about starting on the moon affirming the oxymoron military intelligence. Fans of faster than light science fiction will join the expedition to Spider Star to find someone to save Argo.