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Hull Zero Three Paperback – Oct 7 2011
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'Hull Zero Three is a lean, mean, supercharged sense-of-wonder engine.' -- Alastair Reynolds 'Hull Zero Three is a grand adventure of scientific discovery ... by turns chilling and touching, it poses challenging questions about what it means to be human.' -- Charlie Stross 'Greg Bear's voice is a resonant, clear chord of quality binding some of the best SF of the 20th Century to the short list of science-savvy, sophisticated, top-notch speculative fiction of the 21st. More than a grace note, Hull Zero Three is a compelling allegro in the growing symphony of Greg Bear's finest work.' -- Dan Simmons 'Not for those who prefer their space opera simple-minded, this beautifully written tale where nothing is as it seems will please readers with a well-developed sense of wonder.' PUBLISHER'S WEEKLY 'I loved Hull Zero Three ... this book reminds me of why I fell in love with science fiction in the first place. Searing questions of humanity, a good old fashioned riddle of a plot, and excellent conceptualization make Hull Zero Three more than worth the effort.' THE BOOK SMUGGLERS --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
About the Author
Greg Bear is the author of more than thirty books of science fiction and fantasy, including Forerunner: Cryptum, Mariposa, Darwin's Radio, Eon, and Quantico. He is married to Astrid Anderson Bear and is the father of Erik and Alexandra. His works have been published internationally in over twenty languages. Bear has been called the "Best working writer of hard science fiction" by "The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Science Fiction."
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Top Customer Reviews
All-in-all, an absolutely brilliant book and it is great to see Greg Bear, one of my favourite authors, return to his earlier work's level of excellence.
This story is another version of the classic generation starship tale with descendants of the original crew going through the motions of ship maintenance without understanding them. One of the original books of this genre is Robert Heinlein's Orphans of the Sky. If this type of story is new to you, it may be a good idea to read Heinlein's book first. Greg Bear's story is more complex, but seems longer than necessary to carry its ideas. It ends with a hodge-podge of characters in play and not much of a concluding surprise.
The book wasn't bad, exactly, but wasn't as good as one expects from this author. Unless you have a lot of free time, I suggest giving it a pass.
I have now read it after buying it at a reduced rate and my first instincts were right. Not really one of Bears stronger books.
It was not as enjoyable to read as many of his other books I have read. It's a story that starts out with a fully grown man popping out of a birthing chamber with very little of his memory in place. He the meets varied people/creatures that help him reach Hull Zero Three.
He finds he is on a heavily damaged triple hull space ship that has sustained significant damage and the ship is now systematically killing everything aboard.
He runs into other inhabitants that are trying to stay alive and tags along with them.
The main problem I had with the book was that there was not a good link for me to the character , so that I didn't really care whether they made it or not. Also the story was scattered and confusing at times
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The overall theme of "Hull Zero Three" may remind readers last year's (very underrated) film "Pandorum," but Bear, to his credit, writes with a bit more complexity and depth then what you might find in a movie. The themes of "Hull Zero Three" include some meditation on what it means to be human - genetically and morally, and whether we can overcome our genetic 'programming', as well as what humanity as a species may or may not be willing to do in order to survive.
Bear doesn't skimp on pure action, and while he avoids the standard "infodump" we do learn enough of the design and function of the inconceivably vast starship to really engage the reader's sense of wonder and awe. The book was not perfect - there were some scenes towards the middle where it dragged a bit, and the end seemed a bit too rushed and confusing. However, these are minor flaws. Overall, "Hull Zero Three" is one of 2010's better sci-fi offerings and showcases an author that is still near the top of his game.
So the narrative arc is familiar, the characters equally so, the vaguely horrific quest works well, and the overall resolution is nicely judged. So why Do I give this book only three stars? Other reviewers have already identified the book's fatal weakness: the descriptions. Descriptions of characters and of monsters, both human and monstrous. Descriptions of the ship: its processes, systems, structures, spaces and spatial elements. Descriptions of the forces that act upon the characters, including sounds, accelerations, temperatures... The author insists on painting a detailed picture of every move, every event, every spin-up and chill-down, and then finds himself running out of adjectives. The result is often repetitive, and unfortunately flat.
As I said, I've read many science fiction stories in which the writers strove to describe huge alien forms and to hint at experiences beyond human ken. And generally they succeeded. I have a feeling that what's happening here is that the author has watched too many science fiction moves. When computer graphics can casually fill the screen with aliens, or a starship the size of a small planet, or an attack by thousands of robots, two things can happen to a writer. First, s/he may believe that anything less will not satisfy the reader, and s/he will strive to compete with the visual medium. Second, s/he may hope that the book can become the basis for a successful movie, and drifts into writing not a novel but a screenplay with detailed instructions to the special effects team.
How close does Greg Bear come to these tendencies - the Scylla and Charybdis of CGI envy? A bit too close for comfort, I'm afraid.
It is pretty obvious from the outset that the character is on a generation ship and that things have gone HORRIBLY WRONG (as things always seem to do on generation ships...it's a wonder anyone builds them, really...don't those people read science fiction?). So the suspense really all revolves around what has gone wrong and will the characters be able to set it right. It's too bad that Bear chose such an annoying way to tell this story, because I thought the situation (when it is finally revealed very late in the novel) was actually pretty interesting and if he'd made the story about THAT instead of about an amnesiac character slowly making this discovery, it would have been a much better novel.
Something goes wrong during flight. The main character is one of the colonists who finds himself awake too soon, with the ship failing around him. The majority of the book is one of "man versus the environment," where the environment is the damaged and malfunctioning ship. The main character's memory is damaged, so central to this struggle is his attempt to understand the ship. And this is where it all falls apart.
The problem is that the unnamed Ship makes no sense at all. It might as well be designed by aliens. Insane aliens. At root, "Hull Zero Three" is a horror story, and the Ship is the haunted house, with features that exist just to scare and confuse the main character. The author has made precious little effort to make concessions to what would actually be useful and functional for a colony ship, or how it would really be laid out if the designers were trying to make it useful and convenient for its eventual crew. Imagine if the designers of the "hammer room" from Galaxy Quest built an entire ship that way.
It doesn't help that the dialog is often elliptical, disjointed and deliberately difficult to understand, and that the story is told in an annoying stream-of-consciousness manner. At one point a character says "You are prayed into existence." I kid you not, that's the kind of mushy-headed dialog that's common in this book. The resolution of the book is frankly semi-mystical.
Eventually, we do find out what's going on, and it's a mixed bag. On the one hand, the bare bones idea of the Ship's nature, and why there's a conflict between Destination Guidance and other parts of the ship is kind of interesting. On the other, how the conflict progressed, the motivations behind awakening the main character, and the way it's resolved are all ridiculous. I felt like I read a little over 300 pages just to get a few ideas that were better explored in another novel, the title of which I can't mention without spoiling the ending of "Hull Zero Three."
At least it was relatively short, as modern SF novels go. Not recommended.
I'd say the book would work better as a movie since it is actually a horror tale with continual actions. But a movie would have a difficult time following the dreamlike "plot" the reader is forced to endure. The only thing harder than making sense of the various wanderings around the ship was the descriptions of the ship. Confusion reigns as the reader runs into bulkheads, airlocks, hulls, pipes, halls, chambers, tunnels, goes up, down, left, right, under and over, bouncea off walls or flies through space.
The main character seems only partly formed, an imitation character who seems only slightly interested in reality. At last he discovers the terrible secret and with a ragtag band of friendly creatures (a la Star Wars) he prepares his counter punch. The logic for the presence of any character or any plot twist is non-existent. The ending is a hoot - fakey and forced. My grade - D-