Wednesday, 28 April 2010

The Ring of Charon, Book Review

by Roger MacBride Allen

Pros: the science seems accurate and is explained so anyone can follow the story, interesting premise, unique aliens

Cons: too many characters to keep track of, implausible character personality changes

The Ring of Charon is the first book of the Hunted Earth series though it also works as a stand alone novel.

The story takes place enough in the future that most plants in the solar system have colonies, the asteroids are being mined for minerals and science is much further ahead than it is now. But knowledge is not static, so scientists at Pluto have built a ring around Charon, it's moon, designed to investigate gravity. When Larry Chao makes a breakthrough and tests his theory, he unwittingly wakes a sleeping alien force in the moon. This entity makes a transmission to its own kind, and before any humans understand something is happening, the Earth disappears.

The novel starts slowly as the experiment and its immediate consequences are dealt with. The rest of the novel shows the humans both on the Earth and back in the Solar System try to contact each other and learn about the aliens that have changed everything.

It's a fascinating thought experiment. He writes the scientific explanations in such a way that anyone could understand them. And it's far from boring. He does jump from place to place a lot, showing how people in various places react. And all of the viewpoints are necessary for the ending but it is hard to keep track of who's who.

My only real complaint is that two characters change personalities rather drastically during the story. The first was Raphael, leader of the Pluto station. He starts off very imperious and has a revelatory shift to someone with an inquisitive mind, willing to learn from others. His epiphany was carefully explained but still felt contrived. The second was Lucian from the Moon. When talking to Chao from a distance he's nice to him, but when they meet in person an undisguised hatred pops up.

The alien life-forms Allen created are fascinating. The explanation as two researchers discover the alien life cycle sounds rather far fetched, especially as they both agree there's no other possible explanation for what's happening, but it's definitely unique.

The Ring of Charon is an interesting look at where humans could go in the future, as well as an examination of possible life-forms that might be 'out there' somewhere.

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