Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Shattered Sphere by Roger McBride Allen

Review written April 2000
The Shattered SphereThe Shattered Sphere is the sequel to Ring of Charon, which was written in 1990. I'd been reading everything I could get my hands on written by Allen, who was an up and coming new hard sf author, and as I recall I had really enjoyed RoC. Well, the sequel didn't come out until 1994, and somehow or other I missed it, or had moved on to other things. A few weeks back, I found a copy of Shattered Sphere at the used book store, and the rest is... the stuff of cliche.
This novel is probably one of those few exceptions to the rule for me - where strong characterization was missing, yet I still enjoyed the story. As a matter of fact, I'd have to wrack my brain to come up with the names of any of the characters except Wally (Every hard sf novel needs a Wally), the total geek. Allen also did the POV hopping that I usually hate, but it worked quite well in this novel. Indeed it is the only way the plot could advance, as the situation set up in Ring of Charon had left us with several isolated groups of human beings, the colonists on the moon, the people on the relocated Earth, the crew on the starship, and the anarchists on the space station.
So, what was it that "sold" this novel? First, Allen did a good job of incorporating the "what has gone before" message into the story line, which was a good thing, because I certainly couldn't have told you a thing about Ring of Charon after ten years had gone by. In short, while doing research into gravitics beyond the orbit of Pluto, scientists managed to awaken a "sentinel" of a race of alien cyborgs hidden on the moon. This triggered the kidnapping of earth through a wormhole and the appearance of an attack on the rest of the solar system by the Charonians. The remainder of the solar system beats off the attack and, in Shattered Sphere, are trying to recover from the loss of Earth's resources.
Allen also does a good job of weaving pseudoscience and astronomical theory into descriptions of the alien devices, motivations and actions. It seems that the Charonians have an adversary, which probably lives on the surface of neutron stars, and which "eats" gravitic energy, so is attracted to any area where they have harnessed the power of black holes. The characters in the novel slowly learn more about the aliens and how to deal with them. The mystery aspect of this novel was fun. Try to see if you can figure things out one jump ahead of the people in the book.
Anyway, if you think you'd like to read this, go pick up both novels somewhere and start from the beginning. I think Ring of Charon is out of print by now, so you'll be forced to save money at your local used book store.


ASM826 said...

How, the perfect website for today. My son is overseas and asking for SF books to read to pass the time. Your site will give me good ideas about what to buy and what he will like, as well some I need to read/reread.

Jon said...

What a coincidence! My son is also overseas with the Marine Corps right now. Turned out the commandant's reading list included Orson Scott Card and Robert A. Heinlein, so I sent him off with a copy of Ender's Game and Starship Troopers, among other things.