I’m a huge fan of Andy Weir’s first book, The Martian, and his new book, Project Hail Mary, is even better. It’s fast-paced, fun, smart, and bold.
No? That’s the premise of Charles Stross’s hard-science Halting State, where virtual characters rob a virtual bank for millions of not-virtual dollars, and no one has any idea how to solve the crime. It’s fast-paced, seriously smart, and filled with more Scottish that you usually get in science fiction.
Ben Bova wrote over 120 science fiction and fact books and won the Hugo six (!) times. Unfortunately, he recently passed away at the age of 88 due to Covid-19-related pneumonia and a stroke. This list is a tribute to his vast body of work, which focused on hard science.
However, his writing style may come across as dated to modern readers, as does an occasional reliance on clichés and stock characters.
Dragon’s Egg is a fun, clever look at life evolving on the surface of a neutron star, where one hour of human time is the equivalent of hundreds of years on the alien star.
While the extreme physics of the story may be accurate, Dragon’s Egg contains some of the most stilted dialogue I’ve come across in a long time, especially in the beginning. I found myself thinking that author Robert L. Forward must have talked to a human woman at some point in his life, but if so, that knowledge did not find its way to his book.
However, this is not a story you read for its character development. Dragon’s Egg is all about examining an alien race evolving on a sphere with a gravity of 67 billion Gs, and living at a million times the speed of humans. The story is most believable when it’s dealing with aliens, and it’s still a fun ride.
Recommendation: Get it at the library. Power through the first chapter and you’ll be fine.
In Pushing Ice, one of Saturn’s moons suddenly departs from its orbit and shoots off into deep space. The only nearby ship chases the errant moon and watches as huge chunks of ice fall off its surface to reveal a gigantic machine underneath.
Not everyone on the ship wants to keep chasing this object. The object seems to have some ideas about that, too.
Pushing Ice is a great book, and I lost some sleep because I couldn’t put it down. Even though we follow the same characters throughout the book, so much happens that it has the feel of a big, sprawling, multi-generational epic.
The science is hard, the humans flawed, and the surprises keep coming.
Recommendation: Get it at the library unless you’re building a shelf of all of Alastair Reynolds’ books. Which may be a pretty good idea, actually. Hmm.