19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
According to James P. Hogan's latest novel, "Moon Flower", Earth of the mid-twenty-first century has become a truly disagreeable place. The world is ruled by mega-conglomerates like Interworld Restructuring Corporation and its thuggish military contractor, Milicorp Transnational. Countries like the United States of America have fragmented into smaller, regional entities which serve primarily as bill collectors for the corporations. Personal rights have practically ceased to exist. You can't even leave the university at Berkeley for lunch without passing through a checkpoint and getting wanded and frisked. Is it worth the hassle?
Certain people are born misfits. Take quantum physicist Marc Shearer. Sure, he could make tons of money coming up with nasty new superweapons for one of the big corporations, but he'd rather do basic research to further the understanding of reality. Very early on, he gets dumped by his girlfriend because he isn't Going Places. He amuses himself by playing a certain parlor game called "nuts" with his companions -- it serves as a fascinating insight into basic, dysfunctional human nature.
Then there's Jerri Perlok. She's an anthropologist who looks at the strutting and preening of the privileged classes, and sees little difference between them and peacocks going through their mating rituals. She trusts her instincts, as well as the instincts of her little dog, Nimi (short for Nimrod). If the dog doesn't like someone, neither does she.
Both Marc and Jerri quickly find themselves on an interstellar voyage to a recently discovered planet called Cyrene. Marc was selected because of his ties with another physicist, his mentor, Evan Wade. Dr. Wade has gone missing -- along with practically everyone else in the two previous missions to Cyrene. Even hardened, dedicated officers of Interworld or Milicorp. Those who do stay in touch with Earth seem oddly lackadaisical. They just don't see any reason to keep up with Earth's mindless rat race any more. Something about Cyrene is getting to them. Is it the water? Something in the air? Or something much more mysterious?
Thus begins Hogan's latest engaging story. The basic theme will be familiar to long-time Hogan readers: the tyrannical forces of greed and conformity -- and their deluded minions -- on the one side, versus the more individualistic and altruistic people on the other. It's embodied in the question native Cyreneans, a humanoid race, ask of their Terran visitors: "But what is it that you actually DO?" They understand architects, doctors and engineers. They don't understand spoiled, bratty socialites whose sole claim to fame is whom they're related to, or how big their house is, or how many pictures they have hanging on their walls.
Interworld, we learn early on, has a very brutal, underhanded way of subjecting uncooperative client worlds. They pit different factions against one another, or appeal to religious phobias with an updated version of Moses and the Ten Plagues of Egypt. But the Cyreneans aren't impressed. They have a peculiar sort of intuition which renders them immune to the usual sorts of ploys. It even guides their science: they just "know" that this particular type of steam engine is "right", even if they don't fully grasp the fundamentals of physics. Interworld is losing a lot of money on this latest venture, and it's time to lay down the law.
I found the characters very engaging right from the outset, with none of that clunky, awkward dialog some of Hogan's recent novels have suffered in the opening chapters. Hogan's descriptions of the world of Cyrene are very imaginative. Picture a world with a very elongated orbit, around the larger member of a binary star system. It has complicated extremes of day and night, summer and winter, depending on how close together the two suns are in the sky, and how close the planet is to its primary sun. Hogan's landscape descriptions are very vivid, making me want to reread them and savor them. In fact, I'm thinking of rereading the whole book.
And, of course, there's the science. A hallmark of Hogan's novels can be described by this dust jacket blurb: he combines "informed and accurate speculation from the cutting edge of science and technology with suspenseful story-telling and living, breathing characters."
Central to the plot is the study of "A-waves", an artifact of certain quantum mechanical wave functions, which theoretically propagate backward in time. If it could be established that these actually existed, and that biological systems (plants and animals) were sensitive to such things, what would be the effect? Of particular interest to Terran scientists like Wade Evans is the ubiquitous Cyrenean moon flower.
About the only major complaint I have about this book is poor editing. Hogan uses "perigee" and a misspelled "perigree", which he really means "perihelion". Ditto for "apogee" versus "aphelion". And there are a few other typos which occasionally jar the reader and obscure meaning. Come on, guys: advanced spelling and grammar checkers are no substitute for a real, live human being.
No doubt some detractors will see Hogan as harping monotonously on the same themes over and over again: the need to escape from a society mindlessly squabbling over a bowl of beer nuts, be it to another planet, another star, or a distant timeline in the multiverse. But for me, each Hogan novel is just enough different to keep my interest piqued. I'm looking forward to many more.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I really didn't want to read this. I first read Hogan in high school, starting with Thrice Upon A Time. That book, along with Inherit the Stars help cement my interest in SF. I followed Hogan for a long time, until he starting going off the rails (my last book of his was Cradle of Saturn, which I knew was bad, but read just to see how bad it could be).
One of my book groups picked this one to read (I think partially because Hogan died last year, and this one was in print and easily found) so I read it to see how bad it was.
Ugh...Earth is a mess, being dominated by massive corporations (ok, nothing new here) and "developing" new worlds (there's a FTL drive which allows us out of the solar system). On the planet Cyrene, Terrans from the base are disappearing. Myles Callen, a facilitator for the Interworld Restructuring Corporation is sent to find out what is going on, and to find physicist Evan Wade, one of the humans that has left the base.
Marc Shearer, an idealistic physicist who was a colleague of Wade's, is given the chance to go to Cyrene (the corporation hopes Shearer will lead Callen to Wade). Once there, Shearer finds that Wade has laid the groundwork for him to follow, with help from the Cyreneans.
Once on the planet, most humans find themselves becoming more like the Cyreneans, less interested in being selfish, and more about "doing the right thing".
I guess this is a spoiler, though the once you start the book the title gives a bit of it away, but there's a flower on Cyrene which somehow (handwaves quantum physics) allows some communication backward in time. This allows people to make the "correct" decisions. (This occurs on Earth, but is too faint for anyone to recognize. Shearer has been doing research into this. The flower acts as a sort of antenna for the waves).
One of my biggest problems with this story is that, given that humans are screwing up the planet, the solution is through a "magical flower". It's very depressing.
Well, that's one problem The book is also badly written, with most of the characters being bland, despite some background information. There's also bad science (including a bit of Velikovsky, which really serves no purpose in the plot) including some wonky orbital dynamics of the Cyrene system.
Hogan isn't the first author to lose his way as he got older, but really stands a an excellent example of such. I saw him a few years ago at an ArmadilloCon, and got him to autograph a couple of books. He asked "why none of the new books..." which I was able to laugh off (I really didn't want to go into that with him at an autograph table).
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Arthur W. Jordin
- Published on Amazon.com
Moon Flower (2008) is a standalone SF novel. It is set about four decades from now. Discoveries in quantum physics have led to the invention of an FTL drive that makes interstellar exploration and colonization possible.
Dozens of solar systems have been explored with robot probes. Aliens -- who look much like humanity -- have been found on several planets. New corporations have been formed to exploit interstellar resources and natives.
In this novel, Evan Wade is a physicist on the first expedition to Cyrene by Interworld Restructuring Corporation. His specialty is advanced waves. Retarded waves are the normal kind that travel forward in time, but advanced waves travel into the past. Wade has tried to detect advanced waves using biophysical sensors.
Marc Shearer is also a physicist and Wade's former assistant. Now he is head of the project at Berkeley while Wade is away. He has heard from Wade that some interesting things are happening on Cyrene. Wade tries to wire a job request to get Marc to Cyrene as his assistant. Naturally, Marc applies for the job when the opening is posted.
Jerri Perlok is an anthropologist. She has recently been hired by Interworld for the third expedition to Cyrene. She skipped a preflight training session to attend a social event. After all, she has plenty to observe at such occasions.
Jeff Lang is a historian. He is traveling to Cyrene to prepare an account of their progress. He is also an agent for Milicorp, the company that provides security for Interworld.
Myles Callan is a Facilitator for Milicorp Transnational. He is now a civilian executive of the mercenary corporation, but he has worn a uniform in the past. He is very intelligent, but rather cold-blooded, rational and calculating without strong emotions.
In this story, Myles finishes his last assignment and returns to the San Francisco area for a briefing on his next task. Rath Borland tells him that the Interworld effort on Cyrene is disintegrating. Personnel have been deserting the company and the remaining employees are showing signs of mental disorientation.
Interworld had sent two prior shipments of personnel and equipment to Cyrene. Now they are assembling a third emergency voyage to resolve the situation. Myles will be going with the third complement.
In addition to resolving the personnel problem, Myles is tasked with returning Evan Wade to Earth. Interworld suspects that his presence has worsened the situation and would like him off the planet. Borland has also arranged for Shearer to be on the ship, so he should lead to Wade.
Arriving for his preflight orientation, Marc meets Jeff in the cafeteria. Soon Jeff is a close associate, but he becomes a little irritating due to his obsessive questioning. He seems especially interested in Evan Wade.
Marc also meets Jerri during the preflight training. She seems different from other women whom he knows. For one thing, Jerri is more of an observer than a participant. Maybe that comes from her professional training?
When they reach Cyrene, Marc and Jerri wander around the base and find an unlocked gate. Beyond it, a path leads down into the surrounding greenery. Walking down the path, they find a native group waiting for them with a letter from Wade.
This tale leads Marc and Jerri into a puzzle. The natives always seem to know intuitively what to do about problems. They can't explain it, but a premonition leads them to the optimal choice on many things. Moon flowers are considered to invoke the best solutions.
The natives are positive that trying for longrange solutions is the wise thing to do. Ways that lead to the best solutions for everybody seem to reduce social unrest and internal conflict. The natives have had very few intergroup hostilities, possibly because of such feelings about ideas and the individuals who espouse them.
The author introduces strange scientific speculations into his novels. This work continues the Velikovsky premise from Cradle of Saturn, but also adds some strangeness from quantum mechanics. Not that strangeness is anything new in QM, but advanced waves have only recently become an acceptable subject for scientific experiments. Some labs are currently trying to explore such exotic events, but the author takes these efforts a bit further.
This novel emphasizes the gullibility of humanity as compared to the Cyreneans. OTOH, the Cyreneans are deficient in logical reasoning. The combination of humanity and natives may well lead to some exciting discoveries. Read and enjoy!
Recommended for Hogan fans and for anyone else who enjoys tales of exotic physics, social theories, and human relationships.
-Arthur W. Jordin
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
I used to read all of Hogan's books. I really love his HARD science fiction. I know he expressed some different views in his last few years, but I don't base my fiction reading on the politics of the author.
This book is classic James P Hogan. If you like classic strong science fiction, you should enjoy this book. If you base your reading habits on the political correctness of the author, then you probably shouldn't be reading anything from a long list of writers.
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
James Hogan has not lost his touch. Interesting combination of science and fiction in the best manner. Fun to read.