Imagine embarking on an interstellar voyage with the sad knowledge that while you're gone, generations will have died. Imagine leaving with high hopes of alien contact, only to confront the discouraging failure of other star-faring civilizations to flourish. Imagine the final indignity of returning to an Earth that has become an equally alien world, indifferent to the fruits of your quest.
That's the bittersweet premise of Starfarers, 's disquieting blend of brooding romanticism and sobering realism. is not as renowned as or , but he ranks high in the pantheon of science fiction's golden-age writers. For almost half a century, he has written compelling novels and stories, rich with adventure, character, appreciation of nature, and love of life. shares 's storytelling flair and love of liberty and 's sense of poetic beauty, but his fiction is distinctive for its wintry Scandinavian moods.
Unlike some science fiction writers, who hit their stride early, Starfarers, as in some of his best previous books (The Boat of a Million Years, Tau Zero), tells a wistful tale of episodic discovery and future evolution while raising disturbing questions about the long-term prospects for scientific progress, individual freedom, and interstellar exploration.just keeps getting better. In
When astronomers discover evidence of a starfaring civilization 60,000 light years away, ten scientists volunteer to journey there on the starship Envoy. No convenient faster-than-light drive, a la Star Trek or Star Wars, for: The round trip will take 12,000 years, but only a few years pass on Envoy because of the time-dilation effects near the speed of light. Envoy's multicultural crew bonds into an uneasy extended family, but the tensions and shifting liaisons of a long voyage take their toll, threatening the mission.
Back on Earth and neighboring colonies, despotisms rise, science stagnates, and humanity splinters into genetically altered races. Those few who continue to travel between nearby stars knit into the Kith, a subgroup treated with increasing condescension and prejudice by planet-bound aristocracies.
Suffused with a sense of homesickness and the preciousness of life amid a vast cosmos, Starfarers reflects an older man's awareness of the remorseless march of time. recognizes that we are all time travelers by the end of our life journeys.
Longtime Trader to the Stars series or the recent Fleet of Stars trilogy, but the patient will be well-rewarded with solid science fiction that avoids easy answers and “warp-drive” fantasies.fans may miss the bright optimism and wit of his
So far-flung are this novel's scattered triumphs and defeats that characterization is not as rich as one expects fromReviewed by . Many alien and human characters appear too briefly to make much impression, while the starship crew is drawn just deeply enough to support the terrific story. Ironically, the increasingly alien characters reinforce 's theme. By the novel's cautiously optimistic end, readers will join the surviving crew members as strangers in a very strange land.Michael Grossberg
All trademarks and copyrights property of their owners.