Golden Fleece Paperback – Nov 5 1999
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Robert J. Sawyer's first novel, Golden Fleece, kicked off his career in a big way. It won the Aurora Award for best novel and set a high standard that Sawyer has maintained ever since in award-winning works such as The Terminal Experiment and Calculating God. Golden Fleece combines the conventions of several genres: it's both a first-starship-from-Earth story and a first-contact-with-aliens story, and it mixes these SF elements with a suspense thriller plot. A murder has been committed onboard the starship, although at first only one character, the victim's ex-husband, Aaron Rossman, thinks there is anything suspicious about her apparent suicide.
The reader is under no such illusions, however, since the story is told from the perspective of the murderer himself--or, rather, itself. The suspense builds as it becomes clear the murderer has more secrets to hide, and a second problem as well: the humans on the ship are about to vote on whether to continue their voyage or turn back to Earth. The murderer naturally has a vested interest in the outcome: he's the ship's computer.
Sawyer mixes the elements of SF and murder mystery with the touch of a master. If there is a problem with the novel, it is in the details of Aaron's life, which are necessary to understanding why he reacts as he does but are presented in a way that at first seems to distract from the main story. And it's pretty easy to see where Sawyer found his inspiration; few readers will miss the parallels to 2001: A Space Odyssey. In the end, though, a satisfying resolution establishes Sawyer as a writer well worth reading. --Greg L. Johnson
From Library Journal
The unexpected death of a crew member of the spaceship Argo during a ten-year voyage to a newly discovered, potentially habitable planet plunges the space-weary crew into a nightmare of suspicion as one man attempts to expose a murderer. Sawyer's first novel expertly combines mystery and sf in a fast-moving thriller recommended for sf collections.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
The story begins as JASON murders crew member Diana Chandler and is nearly successful in making it look like suicide. Diana's ex-husband Aaron Rossman believes that Diana has killed herself because of his actions. His affair during the final months of their marriage was not a secret as he believed. Aaron gradually sees past his grief and deduces that Diana was murdered. Eventually we all learn the secret she was murdered to protect.
JASON is a bit like HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey, but has more humans to talk with. And lie to. Sawyer gives us a consistent and intriguing portrayal of an advanced AI program with nearly unlimited observational data about human beings and limited experience with which to interpret it. Telling the story from JASON's point of view was a good decision and is well executed.
This is a good story, well told. Like some of Sawyer's other books, this one was written to explore an idea--artificial intelligence, in this case--as well as to entertain. It does both well. It is interesting to compare JASON's malevolent influence in this book to Heinlein's more benevolent but equally secretive Mike that controls Luna City in The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. Both have similar spans of control and are naïve in their understanding of humans. But they act quite differently.
Told in a winning 1st-person narrative style from the point of view of the AI that runs the ship (JASON), "The Golden Fleece" is a great read, and a murder mystery to boot.
As always, Sawyer has blended more than one plot into one here: Was the crewmember killed or was it an accident? Why was she killed, if it indeed was murder? Coupled with the exploration of the AI as a character, the grief and confusion of the murder victim's ex-husband, and a strong Science Fiction overtone, you've got a great read ahead of you.
With echoes of 2001, "The Golden Fleece," reads somewhat straightforwardly at times, but it still a remarkably entertaining book from the Canadian master of SF.
Golden Fleece is a murder mystery - but the mystery is not who, we know that right away, it's the "why?" and "will they be caught?" The untangling of these two questions - aboard a generational ship, making it a locked room mystery for the passengers - has the backdrop of the psychology of a generational ship and how man deals with Artificial Intelligence.
That last is a mixed blessing, as he writes in LOTS of science detail to show off his research, BUT he feels free to break the laws of physics when they get in the way of how he wants things to turn out. This tends to weaken the solitary strength he commands.
Despite the awards he's been nominated for and won, I feel strongly that Sawyer is the James Fenimore Cooper of our time. I just wish that someone with the verbal acuity and wit of Mark Twain were around to as carefully elucidate Sawyer's literary offenses. And, it is important to remember, there are folks who love the fantasies of Cooper.
I read Sawyer's "Starplex" because it was nominated for a Hugo. I read this one because a number of folks told me I was off the mark on Sawyer, and should try something else he'd written. I should have been warned by the title of this one--I certainly felt I'd been fleeced.
If you like the works of such writers as Hal Clement, Arthur C. Clarke, or Isaac Asimov: AVOID THIS BOOK!
Most recent customer reviews
An excellent novel/mystery; the plot and twist at the end are outstanding.
It will keep you guessing until you finish it and wondering long after you're done..!
The narrator of this book is the artificially intelligent computer running a huge starship, and the first thing it says (prior to killing a character who has uncovered some... Read morePublished on Aug. 25 2002 by David Barrett
Science fiction is supposed to be a genre that uses real science to tell a good story with morals, lessons and ideas. Read morePublished on Aug. 22 2001 by kcarter
I thought this was a terrific book, really well done with good characters and good plot, and lots of nifty speculations about A.I. Sawyer has clearly read Minsky and other A.I. Read morePublished on Nov. 16 1999