Helix Mass Market Paperback – May 22 2007
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Brown is at the height of his powers." - Stephen Baxter
About the Author
Born in West Yorkshire, England in 1960, Brown has lived in Australia, India, and Greece. He began writing when he was fifteen and sold his first short story to Interzone in 1986. His story “The Time-Lapsed Man” won the Interzone readers’ roll for the most admired story of 1988. He has won the British Science Fiction Award twice for his short stories and has published over twenty books: SF novels, collections, books for teenagers and younger children, as well as radio plays, articles and reviews. His latest books include the collection Threshold Shift, the novella The Extraordinary Voyage of Jules Verne, and the children's book Crazy Love. He is married to the writer and mediaevalist Finn Sinclair, and has one daughter, Freya. He lives in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, United Kingdom. His website can be found at: : http://ericbrownsf.port5.com/
Top Customer Reviews
A classic tale of space colonisation and alien contact, it is delightfully full of clichés, implausibly contrived plot developments and borrowed themes (the bigoted hegemony of Agstarn owes more than a passing nod to Lawhead's superb and much re-read `Empyrion'). Don't read this book expecting a multi-threaded or convoluted plot, atmosphere or any `hard sf' techno and you won't be disappointed. I enjoyed it enormously, linear, simple, derivative and un-challenging though it is and I look forward to equally enjoying Kings of Eternity.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The curious thing is that, even with all these gripes, Helix is enjoyable. It's fast paced, cinematic and wondrous. The reader is carried along at such a rate that faults are smoothed over due to the sheer speed of the narrative.
I just couldn't put this book down. I read on the way to vacation to Bermuda and figured I'd read the rest on the way back. But, I kept reading and reading it on vacation until I was done. The pace is fast and touching at times. The story is very imaginative and had me thinking about humanity.
So, I won't repeat what others have already stated, but read it and find out for yourself.
And that is the lasting impression I got from the book. It had so much potential, had the material been in the hands of a better writer. Brown could have used the journey up the helix in a metaphorical fashion to explore his themes of environmentalism and humanity; he could have created a multi-book saga and explored many different worlds; he could fleshed out his characters against the backdrop of hardship, loss, and adventure. He could have provided the reader with stunning vistas of new worlds. But he does none of these things. It seemed like the lazy way out to me, as if his editor told him, "You have ten days to write a novel, and you need to write it to the level of a teenager."
The sloppy copyediting and proofreading was distracting. I found the characters to be one-dimensional, with backstories tacked on almost as an afterthought and not doing a single thing to enrich the story. Even the ending was a big anti-climax, and the great mystery surrounding the Helix was like a cobbling-together of old stories that we've all heard before.
If you are looking for meaningless entertainment, then the book is in fact fast-paced. But do not expect a great book.
Five hundred light-years later (one thousand years standard Earth time), Lovelock is torn apart by a series of explosions. A skeleton crew is awakened from coldsleep and they must scramble to save the frozen colonists by crash landing on the nearest possible location: a polar section of a Helix - a vast, spiral construct of worlds, wound about a G-type sun. While most of the colonists remain in coldsleep, the four surviving crew members of the Lovelock proceed up-spiral in search of a habitable section. They will encounter extraordinary and vast landscapes, alien races, and begin unraveling the mystery of who created the helix.
Meanwhile, elsewhere on another tier of the helix, a race resembling lemurs has been under the control of the Church for millennia. The Church is all-powerful and makes all decisions for the people. Ehrin Telsa, owner of Telsa Dirigible Company, mans an expedition of the western plains for usable resources. Of course, the Church sends a representative with them, Elder Cannak. When they come across an alien (not human), the people on the expedition are amazed to learn that the Church already knew of the aliens and their strange technology, even though the Church swears no other race and no other world exists. Elder Cannak and the Church are hiding many secrets. While Ehrin wants to learn, Elder Cannak and the Church begin their well planned genocide of all alien races.
*** This novel begins with Joe Hendry on Earth as he is recruited by ESO. From then on, the book continues to follow (mainly) Joe for the entire story. The sections following the lemur-like race follows (mainly) Ehrin. However, the author does not do a good job of describing what Ehrin's race looks like for the readers until Joe's crew actually meets them, pretty far into the book. This caused me, as the reader, some confusion since I had already made my own mental image of the aliens and am suddenly forced into changing that image.
There was strife between two of the four surviving bridge crewmembers. When all became clear to me, I could not help but believe that the strife sections probably made for a sub-plot in the story during the author's writing, yet so much had to be cut (due to word count from the publisher?) that it ended up weak. All-in-all, this is a decent read. Not the author's best by far, but worth your time and money. ***
Reviewed by Detra Fitch of Huntress Reviews.
The aliens in the story are so culturally humanoid, their furry or scaly skins don't matter. The interactions between the humans are stereotyped and mechanical. The crew of humans is so small and acts so improbably, it beggars the imagination. And as for the convenient "enhancements" of one crew member who learns alien languages after hearing about two sentences, why not just use magic spells?
The plot jumps from scenario to scenario, with only the most coincidentally convenient linkages. When the ending comes, it is so lame and predictable, it must have come only because the required number of pages had been reached.
Maybe Mr. Brown should stick to fantasies.