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The Collapsium [Mass Market Paperback]

Wil McCarthy
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Nov. 26 2002
In this stunningly original tale, acclaimed author Wil McCarthy imagines a wondrous future in which the secrets of matter have been unlocked and death itself is but a memory. But it is also a future imperiled by a bitter rivalry between two brilliant scientists--one perhaps the greatest genius in the history of humankind; the other, its greatest monster.

The Collapsium

In a world of awesome technology, the deadly substance called collapsium has given humans all the powers and caprices--including immortality--of the gods they once worshiped. Composed of miniature black holes, collapsium allows the instantaneous transmission of information and matter--as well as humans--throughout the solar system. But while its reclusive inventor, Bruno de Towaji, next dreams of probing the farthest reaches of spacetime, Marlon Sykes, his ambitious rival in science--and in love--has built an awesome telecommunications network by constructing a ring of collapsium around the sun. It appears Sykes may be the victor--until a ruthless saboteur attacks the ring and sends it falling toward the sun. Now the two scientists must put aside personal animosity to prevent the destruction of the solar system--and every living thing within it.

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From Amazon

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 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly Engrossing and Entertaining April 14 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This is the story of the future and the people who molded it and lived it. Our hero is a genius who invented / worked with a product that is actually a miniaturized black hole. Although the science is a little fuzzy this led to the creation of the greatest of inventions, "The Fax", which could not only send a clone of a person to another location but simultaneously fixed all that was wrong with the copy. In other words, it guaranteed imortality.
The world of the future is a matriarchy with a Virgin Queen (who just happens to love our hero). An arch-villian, a desolute madman with the charms of a playboy, sets on a course that will destroy the Solar System. It sounds outlandish but the way the future is presented, particularly with well stone and the amazing nano-technology (the descriptions are perfect), is truly amazing. The tone and setting "sound" plausible. Especially endearing was the way the hero allowed one robot to develop on his own.
This was an unlikely hit, mostly underground, the story carried by word of mouth. I'd love to see this on the big screen but shudder at the horror that the editors would do - they would butcher the story, reduce it to a royal affair with about as much seriousness as a Mars candy bar. The success of this book generaged another by the author, a sequeal of sorts. I can't wait to find out what happens!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Dazzling hard-SF opening fades to melodrama Dec 30 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
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Rating: science "A+", fiction "B-" -- a dazzling hard-SF opening fades to melodrama. Worth reading for the opener and the bleeding-edge sci-tech.
The Collapsium opens with a wonderful novella,"Once Upon a Matter Crushed" (first published in SF Age 5/99). In the late 25th century, in the eighth decade of the Queendom of Sol, gravitation and the zero-point field are pretty well understood. "Neubles," diamond-clad neutronium spheres, are in everyday use -- a standard industrial neuble masses a billion tonnes, and has a radius of 2.67 cm. Our Hero, superscientist Bruno de Towaji, is experimenting with collapsium, a dangerous, metastable material made of proton-size black holes, when he receives a Royal Summons: the new near-solar collapsiter ring is unstable, and will fall into the sun (and eat it) unless Something is Done....
The book is written in an engaging neo-Victorian style -- McCarthy's first experiment with literary Style, vs. his previous 'transparent' prose. I liked it. Witty repartee, amusing pratfalls and shrewd insights abound. Bruno meets a well-married couple at a celebrity fund-raiser on Maxwell Montes, Venus: "The love, shyness and exasperation between them radiated out in invisible rays, like infrared. Warming." Befuddled by a bottomless beer mug, Bruno warms to the pitch: "Would, ah, would a hundred trillion dollars be enough?" <beat>
McCarthy's sci-tech extrapolation is exotic, fun and reasonably plausible. He's clearly done his homework -- the book includes 30 pages of appendices, a glossary, technical notes (including the working equations to synthesize neubles), and respectable references. Fun stuff (really!), one of the highlights of the book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Long Time to Mature Oct. 22 2003
Format:Hardcover
The Collapsium is a novel of the intermediate future. Many years from now, at least a century and probably more, mankind has machines that can build anything from a pattern, including the human body. Moreover, these facsimile (or fax) machines can be connected to transmitters and receivers to send one or more copies of someone's body pattern to other locations on the planets or in space and then to merge the copies back to a single individual. All illness, injuries, and aging are filtered out of the body pattern during transmission, thereby ensuring effective immorbidity and extreme longevity for everyone.
Now that everyone is planning on living forever and has all the wealth that they can possibly use, mankind has become tired of democracy and individual responsibility, so they have created the Queendom of Sol. Fortunately, one royal personage remains after all the years of slaughtering monarchs to obtain liberty: Princess Tamatra Litui of the tiny kingdom of Tonga. Without asking her opinion on the matter, mankind has elected her Queen of Sol with an overwhelming majority and has carefully ensured that she has responsibilities, obligations and moral authority, but no real power. Furthermore, mankind has decided that she should be the Virgin Queen, but her first official act as Queen was to Censure all involved in forcing the position upon her, then her second act was to ensure that her virginity would be renewed as needed, and her third act was to call for suitors.
In this novel, Bruno de Towaji is a Declarant-Philander; that is, he has been granted the highest honor in the Kingdom for his construction of the Iscog (Inner-System Collapsiter Grid) linking the inner planets and he has been further honored as one of the Queen's consorts.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Immortality: Gift? Or Curse? April 17 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Maybe it's because I'm an old f**t, but I think a lot of reviewers have missed a key theme of this book.
I'll quickly mention points made by others before I center in on the immortality & "meaning of life" themes I've found here.
First, this is hard science fiction, but if like me you're no scientist, there is a way to read it and get the gist of the science without getting hopelessly confused.
Secondly, while the second half of the book is more serious with bad things happening, there's a playful perspective to the entire book that can be compared to fairy tales, or to "Tom Swift" solutions, or to glorious "pulp" science-fiction of the '30's and '40's. This might put off some readers and charm others.
However you react to the hard science and/or the allusions to
more faniful genres, don't overlook what is being said about immortality.
The novel's protagonist and antagonist are both among the first to embark into immortal life and are reacting to such a life's implications. As if immortality isn't enough to deal with, there's also the faxing of people creating copies of individuals who have the memories and personalities of the originals but go into divergent paths.
The principal character, after a long period of being the Queen's "Philander", has become a hermit buried in endless scientific research which will hopefully enable him to see the end of time. His opposite number, also for a time the Queen's "Philander", has a similar goal, but due to his immortality has become what could be thought of as a souless entity, with little regard for humanity.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Minus 1 star for a character development
This is a sweet little gem of a book that combines good storytelling with wild science that really hangs together quite well. Read more
Published on May 2 2003 by Arref Mak
5.0 out of 5 stars Enchanting!
Easily one of the most enchanting, touching, books I have read in a long time. Do yourself a favor: just read the first few pages. You'll be immediately hooked!
Published on March 5 2003 by Coldwine
4.0 out of 5 stars A fun, entertaining, intelligent novel
The Collapsium is one of the best books I've read. It has a style that is reminescent of earlier pulp sci-fi stories, and yet all its own. Read more
Published on Feb. 16 2003 by Tyler Stewart
4.0 out of 5 stars Quite different
This is one of the most original works of SF that I have seen in a while. Of all the stories that deal with the subject of black holes, I don't think it ever occured to anyone... Read more
Published on Jan. 14 2002 by Alan Deikman
4.0 out of 5 stars A good time
This one really took me away from the humdrum of 21st century earth. McCarthy takes you on a wild ride where physics is almost magic. I had a great time with this one!
Published on Oct. 31 2001
5.0 out of 5 stars Fun
'Light' on the science and heavy on fiction but fun to read and that the most important part.
Published on June 7 2001 by Hypersion
4.0 out of 5 stars Fun!
I need to preface this review by stating that I have no scientific background. I've never studied physics and have little to no interest in hard science fiction. Read more
Published on Feb. 28 2001 by Michael Scott
3.0 out of 5 stars Wild Speculations, Baroque Setting, Light Tone
Wil McCarthy's new novel, The Collapsium, is built around such scientific speculations based on "edge science" ideas like using black holes as elementary particles. Read more
Published on Feb. 21 2001 by Richard R. Horton
1.0 out of 5 stars Huh?
This is a strange and confusing book. People travel through space by faxing themselves to new locations. People can finally be in the same place at once. Read more
Published on Feb. 17 2001 by L. O'Connell
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