Wil McCarthy is a certified science fiction treasure. A real-life rocket scientist with a gorgeous writing style and rapier wit to boot, McCarthy continually sets a very high standard for good old-fashioned space stories. In The Collapsium
, McCarthy builds on a lovely novella to tell the far-future story of two scientists entrenched in a rivalry that may save, or destroy, the solar system. Tamra Lutui, the Queen of Sol, brings together the brilliant enemies in order to prevent the Ring Collapsiter, a vast ring of strange matter, from falling into the sun. So it is that Bruno de Towaji, inventor of collapsium--crystals made up of tiny black holes that can transport matter instantaneously across vast distances--must find a way to work with Marlon Sykes, who came up with the Ring to change the nature of communication forever. McCarthy makes liberal use of his extensive science knowledge, especially when he describes the nature of high-concept physics ideas like collapsium or wellstone (programmable matter!), but luckily, his literary skills are up to the task of moving the narrative along, keeping us in suspense, and creating characters who are worth reading about. His descriptions of the physical phenomena surrounding the artifacts of high-energy material manipulation are deft and fascinating:
A handful of collapsons in low orbit had become--seemingly overnight--a nested cage of fractured spacetimes, one within the other like wooden babushka dolls, magical ones, straining at the very underpinnings of universal law. And orbiting right overhead!
Towaji and Sykes labor to save the Queendom and outwit the saboteur trying to wreck the Ring, all the while burdened by a byzantine and bureaucratic social structure with demands for party appearances, verbal sparring, and quick thinking. While those of us who aren't physics mavens might quail at some of the terms and ideas McCarthy casually uses, it's his characters and story that make The Collapsium a book to savor, a complex and layered story in the grand tradition of science fiction's masters. --Therese Littleton
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From Publishers Weekly
Even when faced with multiple disasters created by mankind's over-reaching itself, the future as robotics expert McCarthy (Bloom) sees it is a wondrous place, filled with interesting scientific problems and intelligent people eager to tackle those problems. Foremost among the titans of the future is Bruno de Towaji, a scientific genius so exceptionally rich he has built his own miniature planet. There he performs experiments on collapsium, a crystalline matter composed of black holes that allow for the "bending and twisting of spacetime to his personal whims." He has been at this for many years of his immortal life, until he is called out of his happy hermitage by his former lover, Her Majesty Tamra Lutui, the Virgin Queen of All Things. Her scientists, led by Declarant Sykes, have built a collapsium ring around the sun that is now dangerously unstable; Bruno's expertise is needed to save the day. Bruno is used to having people need too much of him. Yet as the story progresses, what with murder and treachery being uncovered and the problems the queendom faces growing ever more complex, Bruno grows nobly into his role of both scientific and heroic savior. While there are amusing attributes and quirks to McCarthy's characters (such as Queen Tamra's virginity being a renewable asset), the greater pleasures of this novel lie in its hard science extrapolations. McCarthy plays up his technical strengths by providing a useful appendix and glossary for the mathematically inclined reader. (Aug.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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