A friend talked me into reading this book. I have read several other novels by Steven Gould, including the Jumper series, and Wildside. Each of them a fantastic read in their own right. But after reading the summary of this book online, I just couldn’t get interesting enough to pick up a copy. But, after some cajoling, I was finally ready to give it a shot. I’m really glad I took the time.
Put aside some of the other summaries of the book you might have read. This book has a very interesting premise, and it plays out with an exciting cast of characters. I’m a big fan of the characters when I read. If I don’t care about the folks in to book, how can the story really be that engaging? So, my trick here is to describe the book without giving too much away.
Consider Earth in the distant future. The planet has been devastated and the last remnants of civilization escape to an interplanetary staging area on the moon. The staging area was originally configured for a deep space expedition sending a crew to checkout a recently discovered planet in deep space that has been going through an atmosphere terraforming procedure. But now that Earth has hit the fan, the project has to be reconfigured to send all surviving citizens to colonize the remote Earth like planet.
The catch: they don’t have space on the ship for Earth’s surviving population. So, in a last ditch effort, the survivors decide to jettison their technology in order to create the room necessary to take everyone on the journey.
This was a concept that I was really onboard with. But I was afraid the book would be about the hardships of civilization at the ass end of space. I was concerned that the characters would spend their time lamenting about what they left behind and what led to the devastation of Earth. To me, this would be a soul-sucking read that was more anguish than I want to witness in my spare time. It turns out, I could not have been further from the reality of this book.
The story picks up hundreds of years after the colonists landed on the remote planet. By this point, their new society has settled in and a new social order has been established. They live more primitively than those who originally left Earth, but they know no different life and are actually happy with their world and their society.
The one piece of technology that survived the trip to the new world was a glass helm that was intended to transfer vast amounts of information into the brain of the person wearing it. This was the plan when the colonists left Earth. Using the Helm, they would be able to rebuild their civilization in a very short period of time. But, as things often do, something went wrong. And that’s what this book is really about. Why was the Helm not used for its intended purpose, and how will it relate to the future of this somewhat more primitive society.
This is where Steven Gould’s writing really shines. He pulls the reader into the world and makes them aware of how it works and how society functions. From there, the reader takes a ride that will transform the world and ultimately ends up telling the tale that will forever effect the history of this new world.
I had hopes that this would have a follow up book or two. The characters would support the story, and there is still a lot to be told about this alien world. But the book is over 10 years old now and it seems unlikely that we will see a follow-up release. Still, I suppose there is always hope!