Daily Archives: Friday, July 8, 2011

THE CLOCKWORK ROCKET by Greg Egan

OMG, I love this cover. Along with Daniel Dociu‘s cover for Leviathan Wakes, I’m happy to see this trend of artists winking slyly at old-school Science Fiction covers while updating them with bold and modern typography. They remind me a lot of the old covers to Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy (or series, or whatever).

The synopsis:

In Yalda’s universe, light has no universal speed and its creation generates energy.

On Yalda’s world, plants make food by emitting their own light into the dark night sky.

As a child Yalda witnesses one of a series of strange meteors, the Hurtlers, that are entering the planetary system at an immense, unprecedented speed. It becomes apparent that her world is in imminent danger — and that the task of dealing with the Hurtlers will require knowledge and technology far beyond anything her civilisation has yet achieved.

Only one solution seems tenable: if a spacecraft can be sent on a journey at sufficiently high speed, its trip will last many generations for those on board, but it will return after just a few years have passed at home. The travellers will have a chance to discover the science their planet urgently needs, and bring it back in time to avert disaster.

Orthogonal is the story of Yalda and her descendants, trying to survive the perils of their long mission and carve out meaningful lives for themselves, while the threat of annihilation hangs over the world they left behind.

Stefan Raets review for Tor.com also has me interested:

Greg Egan really integrates his science into his story, to the point where the novel wouldn’t make sense without it. When he shows Yalda discovering that universe’s equivalent of the Theory of Relativity, it’s both scientifically impressive and highly relevant to the story. But at the same time, I’m a humble liberal arts major who already knows that he’ll have trouble helping his children with their high school math homework, and for people like me, some of the endless scientific explanations in this book are frankly tough sledding.

[…]

Nevertheless, I’m still eager to read the rest of the Orthogonal trilogy, because Greg Egan achieves something very few SF novels manage: he creates some real, old-fashioned sensawunda. Just the concept of the clockwork generation starship would be enough to keep me coming back for more, not to mention the curiosity about what will happen when the descendants of Yalda’s crew—no doubt evolved towards vastly different social norms—return to their home planet. And as alien as the characters are, Greg Egan manages to make you empathize with them and sometimes even forget they’re not human, which is quite an achievement.

The Clockwork Rocket is probably the hardest hard science fiction novel I’ve ever read, but it also has a surprising amount of heart.

Like Raets, I’m math-deficient and generally stay away from Science Fiction-with-a-capital-‘SCIENCE’, preferring to spend my time with more accessible Science Fiction-with-a-capital-‘FICTION’, like the aforementioned Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey (REVIEW). Still, his mention of heart and Egan’s take on explaining the unexplainable (a universe where the laws of physics are different, for instance) are enough to intrigue me.