Heaven's Shadow Paperback – Jun 26 2012
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About the Author
David S. Goyer is a screenwriter, film director, and comic book writer. His screenplays include Batman Begins and The Dark Knight and the upcoming Superman: Man of Steel.
Michael Cassutt is a television producer, scriptwriter, and author. His TV work includes The Twilight Zone, Max Headroom, and Eerie, Indiana. His novels include Missing Man and Red Moon.
Top Customer Reviews
All the characters were well-developed. They were all believable and easy to sympathize with. The main character, Zack, appears to be very cool-headed and mellow. He doesn't let his temper get in the way and all his decisions seem like they are calculated. But, really, he mainly acts off his gut feelings on the situation at hand. I liked his character.
There were points of this novel that shared similarities with Solaris by Stanislaw Lem, but it's also different. Where Solaris left the reader wondering and things unresolved, Heaven's Shadow resolved the reasons and explained everything to the reader in the end.
Overall, I thought this novel was good. It wasn't great, but I enjoyed it. I did want to read the second book, because I did enjoy this one, but I've heard it's super boring, so now I'm unsure. I thought the premise was a really cool idea and the authors did a good job with the writing. I also heard that there is a movie adaptation coming out eventually, which I'm excited to see when it comes out.
I finally found such a book for the first time since the Rama series in the Heaven's trilogy. Absolute masterpiece and a jolly good trip into space. Get this now.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
It opens with two groups, NASA and a Russian/Indian/Brazilian coalition, racing to land on the surface of an enormous Near Earth Object as it passes Earth. They discover that the assumed meteor is in fact a gigantic alien craft of some kind. As they explore the craft a variety of mistakes are made, including the detonation of a "suitcase" nuclear device on the craft's surface. Despite those mistakes, or perhaps because of them, the interactions between the alien species and humanity lead to the alien's recognition that humans might be helpful allies in an ancient, inter-universe conflict which is the subject of "Heaven's War" due out in July, 2012.
Along the way the book explores themes of life, death, love, and loss through realitistic interactions of a variety of colorful characters that includes both professional astronauts and rambunctious teenagers. The inclusion of both children and adults, the intimate portrayal of the role of technology in daily life, and the shift from past to present and personal to international all add up to a page-turning level of suspense that falls slightly short of Clancy or Ludlum, but is refreshing in what could just as easily have been a dull collage of facts and figures (which is a trap far too many hard science fiction writers fall into).
History is a hard beast to ride for a writer, often leading to unrealistic expectations in readers. In the past few decades there has been far too much mystical science fiction for my taste and far too little hard science fiction focused on the interlinked roles of everyday technology and extraordinary space flight. "Heaven's Shadow" marks a pleasantly surprising return to space-based, hard science fiction built from both realistic characters and realistic scientific assumption.
The second third has its moments, particularly in the first reveal of the sentinels and the remnants, but the story just can't sustain matters. As for the final third, it just becomes a jumbled mess that fumbles nearly all of the many of the balls it was juggling. The sheer lack of professionalism at NASA is ludicrous, the almost complete lack-of-reaction to the impact of alien probes is ridiculous, and the blink-and-you'll-miss-it Rapture would be comical, if it wasn't so strained and out-of-place.
It also needs to be said that the portrayal of women in this book is atrocious, and that's not an issue I generally take notice of. They're all weepy, emotional, fragile wrecks who are defined as much by their relationships as their reactions . . . and who, it is suggested, are possibly not fit to be astronauts in the first place. Once you realize it, it makes for a very uncomfortable read.
All-in-all, a novel that begins well, stumbles in trying to find a direction, and ultimately falls face-first in choosing the wrong direction. There's a sequel to come, but no interest here.
I found the story pretty compelling and the characters mostly well written. A previous reviewer mentioned a tendency to jump around from present to past and this was a bit irritating, but it only happened early in the novel. I had a hard time keeping some of the Mission Control characters straight and the actions of one of the American astronauts (Pogo) were a bit hard to understand. Hence only four stars. But still, Heavens Shadow was an enjoyable read and is recommended.
(1) You can readily believe that NASA will risk a million-dollar space exploration venture to a group of
"professionals" who sound like teenagers on a camping trip :
("'This is stupid', Natalia announced...")...
("'What's that shiny thing?,' Rachel asked...")....
("That was Patrick. 'This is getting even cooler!")
Anyone who has listened to what astronauts actually sound like when
they're on a mission will have trouble with this.
(2) You don't mind having action sequences constantly interrupted with sudden,
too-long passages into the past that break the momentum of the action and
get you flipping forward to get past the trivial exposition.
Other than that, it's OK.
I won't go into the plot but can say that it does have some icky bugs in it. There's a lot of NASA stuff going on and if that's your thing, you'll have fun with that. I found myself wanting to keep turning pages with the crisp narrative and fast-paced action that didn't drag. Short chapters that were easy to read, even during commercials made this thick novel a great experience.
The story also ended well and that's a big plus for me. I didn't have any problem with either the science, logistics or any of what happened, though I'm no expert and I'm sure anyone intimately familiar with the reality could probably pick all kinds of holes in it.
For me, it was worth the price of admission. Highly recommended.