Total Eclipse Mass Market Paperback – Feb 1984
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The most interesting precept in this book is that an human could get to think like an alien under the right circumstances. This passage is very well done.
They finally understand how a civilization was wiped out and you will see that this future could happen to us if we are not vigilant toward the biogeneticians.
Greed is a part of our nature, so we must put every effort in our reasonning.
`Sigma Draconis, nineteen light-years from Earth, had once harbored a world with a high civilization. But that world had died and only certain mysterious artifacts remained - wonderful creations but just one of each kind. By the year 2028, humanity was facing its own final crisis. And the starship STELLARIS was sent to find out the cause of that neighboring race's extinction. If they could discover why, it might mean saving our own world from a similar disaster.'
The only habitable planet within reach of Earth happens to also be home to a myriad scattering of similar structures and cloned crystal memory devices. With a deluge of possible hypotheses of the de-evolution of the mollusk-like species or of the fatal flaw of the same peoples, the thirty-some team of experts try to understand the undoing of an entire species. Each solution is ingenious, each explanation is conceivable.
Just when the plot becomes to feel rather tedious with the unrelenting speculative answers, Brunner takes it up a notch a pulls in a rather ominous mood thereby changing the characters' outlook and even the ominous conclusion to the novel. The eleventh-hour plot is wrenched with emotional onuses which is unlike many of Brunner novels which tend to have a straight forward conclusion.
Total Eclipse has nothing to do with a solar eclipse at all, but the reader must read into the plot unreeling and discover what the title means to the novel and to humanity in general.
Total Eclipse (1974) fits this mold. A group of scientists attempt to figure out the mystery of a highly advanced race which has apparently, died out. Character interactions are painfully silly along the "Oh heroic main character, you're a genius let me jump into your bed" sort of lines. The entire cast, despite the plethora of female scientists and racial diversity (Arabs, Africans, etc), are entirely interchangeable and bland. After the mystery is solved Brunner desperately attempts to make the work have a relevant social message. Also, apparently dissatisfied with his earlier cavalcade of undeviating naivete, melodrama, and endless faux-biological/linguistic/archaeological technobabble, Brunner tags on a dark ending out of touch with the rest of the work.
For Brunner completests and fans of 70s Hard Science fiction only.
Brief Plot Summary (*some spoilers*)
In the future, mankind has pulled together the necessary resources for a single space sparing vessel, the Stellaris. The powers that be on Earth are increasingly beset by a populace against "wasting" money on space travel due to the crisises of growing overpopulation, pollution, etc. As a result, it's increasingly uncertain how much longer the space program will be funded. Also, various conspiracy theories develop as to the real reasons for the Stellaris` treks into space.
Our paleolinguist main character Ian Macauly -- cut from the nerdy, socially inept, scientist mold -- is summoned by the group of scientists who have taken up residence on the planet Sigma Draconis III. This planet was the home planet of a fascinating race of crab-like aliens which have long since disappeared. The crab creatures communicated by manipulating electric fields, evolved incredibly fast (from primitivism to incredibly sophisticated technology in 3,000 years), appear to make mistakes only once before never repeating them, and left behind a vast assortment of intriguing, but hard to interpret, artifacts (including a moon with a massive telescope). Ian is summoned to solve the alien language with the hope that answer for their disappearance will be solved.
Due to the conspiracies surrounding the program, a particularly egregious/paranoid South American official is assigned to interrogate all the occupants of the archaeological camp. The first third of the book serves as an attempt to info dump the reader under the guise by means of the official's interrogations. Of course, Ian eventually makes him see the light and suddenly is considered a hero. A female scientist fawns over him and desperately wants to get into his bed. Of course, Ian's anti-social nature provides a few giggles and laughs in between the "you're a brilliant man tell me more of your brilliant theories and brilliant brilliance" pat yourself on the back moments.
The rest of the book follows Ian's attempts to unravel the mystery of the crab creatures. He eventually comes up with a plan to make crab suit (!) to simulate the creature's movements, way of visualizing the world, and even the psychological impact of the creature's evolving sexual stages. This incredibly hokey contraption allows Ian approach a solution. But, will the Stellaris even return or have the powers on Earth forgotten them.