Monday, January 28, 2008

Sun of Suns - Karl Schroeder

"And for some reason, the thought that Admiral Fanning was dead, or soon would be, was no consolation. Who cares about him? some unexpeected part of him said. Only you, and what do you matter?"
-Karl Schroeder, from Sun of Suns

Hayden Griffin has just seen his family and his homeland destroyed at the hands of one Admiral Fanning, and swears revenge. A basic premise for any fantasy or space opera, except of course for the fact that he lives within a fullerene balloon(a dwarf cousing to a Dyson Sphere) and that his parents were killed because they were trying to create a sun. And now, after years of hatred and revenge driving him, what happens when he realizes that perhaps, the Admiral is not the monster he is believed to be.

Mixing a classical set of fantasy tropes with some surpising use of hard science, this makes what could have turned out to be a tiring rehash into an interesting and enlightening read. Heated by a central sun as well as smaller peripherary suns created by nation flotillas of wheeled towns and cities(the wheel is the basic shape to create more than microgravity), the space between becomes a sea with ever moving landmasses. And of course Winter, where no light penetrates through the clouds, and Sargassos where the air has gone stale and toxic, deadly to all without their clockwork space suits. Because of certain factors, which I won't tell for fear of spoiling the book, there is a mix of advanced and primitive technology at work, kerosene powered jet bikes for short range travel, and large wooden hulled sailing vessels ply the tradeways.

It feels like Schroeder has created a fully realized world, one with history and myth, as well as wonder and danger. The sciences of the cloud formations seem quite well thought out, though as I am no meteorologist I can't give more than a "it makes logical sense to me" opinion. The whole politics of nations in orbit around each other is something that is quite interesting, something that few other books have tackled.

The book reads like naval fiction, set in a space opera backround and a steampunk spirit with hard science added into the mix. I for one am looking quite forward to the second book in the series, but either way it's an excellent read. Perhaps not for everybody, but if you keep an open mind coming into it then I believe most will enjoy the vivid scenes that combine the otherworldly and familiar. Sun of Suns has my recommendation.

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