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Sunstorm Mass Market Paperback – Feb 28 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
Set in the same universe as Clarke's 2001 and its sequels, Clarke and Baxter's second and final Time Odyssey book (after 2004's Time's Eye) will especially appeal to fans of hard SF who appreciate well-grounded science and humans with a can-do attitude to problem solving. In 2037, the same day the enigmatic alien Firstborn return Bisea Dutt, the heroine of Time's Eye, to her home in London, the city grinds to a halt as a sun storm sends a massive surge of energy to Earth, temporarily destroying the world's electronic infrastructure. This surge presages another, much larger sun storm, due to hit in 2042, which will utterly annihilate life across the globe. Against all odds, the nations of Earth come together to construct a huge space umbrella that will shield the planet from the worst of the barrage. The answer to why the sun's activity is being manipulated to wipe out life on Earth must wait, given the day-to-day difficulties and politics of the construction project. The five-year sweep of events, the plethora of characters and the cuts from Mars to Earth to the moon during the climactic sun storm give the story a movie montage feel, but the focus on the enormously challenging task at hand will keep readers turning the pages. Agent, Scovil, Chichak, Galen. (Mar. 1)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
In this splendid sequel to Time's Eye [BKL O 15 03], Bisesa Dutt returns from Mir, the scrambled world of kidnapped human samples, just when Earth is stricken by a massive solar flare. Astronomer Royal Siobhan McGorran learns from scientists on the moon that the flare is only a precursor to one that will destroy all life on Earth, and Bisesa's travels offer clues that the flares are constituents in a lengthy plot on the part of the alien Firstborn to destroy the human race. A superbly drawn battle for the survival of Earth takes up the rest of the book. The details of humanity's survival device (an Earth-sized sun shield) and the fraying of society, and the characters of the astronauts, engineers, lunar settlers, and artificial intelligences (each with its distinctive personality) are filled out with skill and total conviction, and without at any point slowing the pace. Most of the novel and its predecessor are based on concepts that Clarke absolutely masters (e.g., that of watchful elder races, though the Firstborn have entirely different plans for humanity than the Overlords had in Clarke's classic Childhood's End, 1953). Since Baxter is gaining similar mastery, Sunstorm is his and Clarke's most seamless collaboration to date. Roland Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
"Sunstorm" is a sequel to "Time's Eye" in the sense that one of the main characters from the former novel, Bisesa Dutt, is also one of the main chracters in the new novel. It also has something to do with the Firstborn. But there the sequelity ends. In this respect the dust jacket blurb was astonishingly misleading. It reads in part, "Why did the Fristborn create Mir? Why was Bisesa taken there and then brought back on the day after her original disappearance? Bisesa's questions receive a chilling answer..." Not! None of these questions was addressed, nor was anything else from the first novel including the fate of Mir and those left there, the purpose of the "eyes", the motives behind the actions of the Firstborn etc.
As a short (~330 pages) hard SF novel by two greats, "Sunstorm" was just OK. But as a sequel that very clearly promised to answer all those intriguing mysteries set up in the first novel it fails badly. The (already shown to be inaccurate) dust jacket says that "Clarke and Baxter draw their epic to a triumphant conclusion...", further suggesting that this is the end, but the book's subtitle "A Time Odyssey:2" sugests that maybe there is more to come. If there is, it almost has to be better than this one.
I'll attempt to do so with minimal/no spoilers.
First, there's the obvious: Bisesa is nearly non-existant. While this itself is acceptable, her minimal presence is, at best, distracting; at worst: disappointing. Where is the headstrong lady from the first book? Where is the go-getter? Heck, where is the presence of mind to weep for your lost love, grab your daughter, and do something. Instead....
Second, there's the more obvious: the book, unlike it's predecessor, piles on the science at the cost of the fiction. While this is fantastic in the sense of addressing a major (for sci-fi) shortcoming of the first book, it cost it's enjoyability. Within the first few pages, we (the readers) are aware of the situation and 'the cause'. We don't need 200+ more pages describing it, and the solution. Along those lines, at the cost of the (occassionally nauseating while pleasantly liberating) PC vestiges of the book: "increase the humanity". Make me, the reader, *care* for Siobhan. Or Bud. Or Eugene. Anybody.
Well, I take that back: Athena was a *worthy* addition. I empathized with her. I would have like to have more time spent on her. Of course, 'her' portion was itself limited. To the degree that became, itself discouraging, but, at the least, in line with the rest of the novel.
Finally, the resolution was... anything but. Minimal details on the First Born emerged, and the post-storm section was glossed over.
Hopefully, being the optimist, Clarke and Baxter will revisit the world a third time. Hopefully, if so, it will be the charm.
There is only one character in "Sunstorm" who comes from "Time's Eye." But the lack of characters from "Time's Eye" was only part of the problem. In "Time's Eye" there is plenty of action when people of differing eras meet. The images and ideas of time travel are craftily written by Clarke and Baxter.
In "Sunstorm" I struggled to read the first few chapters because the pace of the story drags. It lacks the energy and excitement of the first book. Certainly the catastrophe of the sun's demise is enough of a plot for one book. However, set as a sequel to a time travel novel, it fails.
I strongly recommend reading "Time's Eye" for fans of time travel science fiction. I recommend skipping the sequel "Sunstorm."
Where the story detracts from being an even better novel, is the weak continuation of the alien watchers thread. This novel could have been written without reference to the Firstborn, Bisesa Dutt could have been eliminated from the story, and nothing of significance would have been lost. I suspect marketing played a role here, and of course the ending is a set up for a potential third novel.
As another reviewer noted, the science is layed on with a shovel and is very much in-your-face. Clarke used to do this so much more elegantly, a little more thought would have improved the flow.
Finally, the references to Clarke, his ideas and his works is either charming or irritating, depending on your love of his books. I think it was an overdone paean to him. Some elements were just not needed, such as the the space elevator, and some dialog lifted directly from HAL 9000 was just too cute.
Having said that, this collaboration seemed to work better for me, and I found the book quite engrossing, reading it in just two sittings. This is not the best work of either of these two authors, but it works well enough to be a very good read.
That being said, I must acknowledge that, it is true. This is a so-so book for Clarke and Baxter. Why?
- The characters are relatively weak. Some of their interactions, attitudes and comments are just not believable (almost as weak as pocket novels like the Da Vinci Code).
- Even though the scientifical concepts behind this book might be correct (I'm not an expert to judge), I can not but think that there were more practical ways for the Firstborn to achieve their main objective. Trying not to spoil it, I ask "why intervene in the Sun and not on Earth"? It would have been more efficient and taken less time. Of course, then we would have no book..... :)
- This book is advertised as heavily related to "Time's Eye". Not true. Besides the (unfortunately) not well known Firstborn, and the relatively obnoxious Bisesa, there is no relation between both books.
- It seems to me that this book is almost a waste. Clarke and Baxter could have written a much better sequel to Time's Eye. And, if on the other hand, they wanted to explore the concepts behind Sunstorm, they could have done a better job writing about it in an independent (no "Time Odyssey") work.
But not all is bad. On the positive side:
- As in any work from these masters, the description of the many events that happen is truly vivid and remarkable. Your mind really wanders off imagining "what would it be like". It's always refreshing to visualize these situations with the help of Clarke and Baxter.
- The book is not terrible. It's nicely written and you end up trying to read it as fast as you can to see which mysteries are solved, which not, and what happens.
In short, if you are already a fan of Clarke and/or Baxter, feel free to read this book. It's not their best but it's ok.
If you don't consider yourself in the "fan" category, I advise you to go and read any of their truly amazing pieces (in the case of Clarke, I suggest the Rama series or the Odyssey series - both are just great).