Sirk TV Book Review: BOWL OF HEAVEN [Tor]
The necessity revolving a race on the edge of dying is to try to find any possible solution, however improbable it might be. Like many ideas before it (including films like “Titan A.E.”), deserting Earth on a voyage to find other places seems a forgone conclusion. The problem, as always, determines to be the aspect of interstellar travel with most inhabitable planets in our current perception being hundreds or even thousands of light years away. Unless a functionality of wormholes comes into play, the idea posed by “Bowl Of Heaven” [Gregory Benford & Larry Niven/Tor/415pgs] about using long-voyage cryo-star ships to traverse long distances becomes the most probable. However this is not the crux of the book, only the set up. The conflict bears out of the fact of mistheorized starship mechanics about what is needed to reach said world which has been aptly named “Glory”. Some of the crew (much in the vein of “Alien”) are brought out of sleep to solve the problem only to find themselves coming in contact with what could be described as a large bowl or “dish” (as in satellite) set in space and getting its energy from a nearby star. The aspect though is a sense of scale since this “dish” is over 1000 times the size of Earth. The book takes into function a sense of scale that is hard to fathom although one thinks of the space array that Ellie in Carl Sagan’s “Contact” once glimpsed near Vega in that novel’s finale. Here a landing party is sent down to retrieve supplies only to be attacked or, in better words, “captured” by what they describe as “Bird Folk”. One half of the group is captured. The other escape into “Cupworld” (as they call it) which is a blend of all the planets and cultures that these Folk (who are blended into different stratas of thought) have assimilated into their Adopted. This first novel in a continuing saga paints the aspects of prehistory and civil war into an almost “Jurassic Park” type scenario except one where the humans are the interesting elements in the zoo. What grounds the stories are two separated lovers in Cliff and Beth who are each leading their separate teams on their own, taking risks but also flooding themselves with hard personal and survival decisions. The jump between the two teams as well as with the captain of the star ship: “Sunseeker” as well as the mind of the lead Astronomer alien Memor gives an interesting structure though the story mainly keeps with Cliff’s team as they progress through this seamless “Land Of The Lost”. The interesting perspective of physics as well as an interesting pervasiveness of human psychology within an adventure story gives the novel a positive and continuous sense of balance and pace.