Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Shipstar (Bowl of Heaven, #2)Shipstar by Gregory Benford
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was just wondering to myself the other day... "Just where has all the regular adventure in unique/impressive/mindblowing SF environments gone?"

I mean, it used to be around all over the place. Often it was a rush to see who would out-do the other, throwing out mind-blowing concepts and super huge technological artifacts that must be figured out and/or survived.

Remember Rendezvous with Rama? Eon? Ringworld? The Integral Trees? Revelation Space? Startide Rising? Ring?

Quick note: two of these great classics were written by Larry Niven, co-author to this book. Respect!

So then, when I come around to reading these two books in preparation for my ARC of Glorious, the third book in the series, I'm struck by just how much I've MISSED this particular genre. I either have to slog through Mil-SF books to get a feeling for it or I have to go back in time to another day when ADVENTURE used to mean something.

But here it is. Adventure, discovery, a wide swath of weird and diverse aliens both biological, silicate, and ELECTROMAGNETIC, all surfing a mobile STAR with a bowl that happens to be HALF of a DYSON SPHERE. For those who may not get the concept, it's enough landmass to fill millions of Earths with perfectly livable climates. It's BIGGER than the star. Sound a bit like Ringworld? Well, this is bigger. And no Pak. I love how these two authors manage all the idea-wrangling, the concepts, and the complicated (if flawed) adventure. I won't say I loved the characters, but I didn't hate any of them and besides, the wildlife is INTENSE. Orbital bombardment from pufferfish? Time-like lances? Nutty elephant-sized birds who think they're all that because they've somehow been left in charge of the zoo?

Well, they have another think coming. :)

The strength of this novel, and the one before it, is that it doesn't rest on the ideas already presented. It keeps coming up with interesting events and peoples and SF objects.

I MISS this.

I remember loving how much better characterization has gotten over the years with newer SF, too, but I didn't mean we ought to give up on the BIG CONCEPT pieces! :)

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