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February 18th, 2006 - Phil's Rambling Rants

February 18th, 2006

February 18th, 2006
09:03 pm

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Book review:  The Heritage Universe
Today's book review is The Heritage Universe by Charles Sheffield.

This is a Science Fiction Book Club omnibus of Summertide, Divergence, and Transcendence, three fairly short novels from the early 1990's.  The three fit pretty smoothly into one bigger story, sharing the same characters and with the next starting where the last ends, so I'm not going to try to break them up for my review.

These novels are set in the far future, thousands of years from now, with human civilization spanning much of the galaxy and interacting with alien civilizations.  The central plot device in the story is a series of artifacts left behind by Builders who disappeared millions of years ago, and the adventures the protagonists have in exploring these artifacts.  The aliens in the story are mildly interesting, and definitely more alien than humans with some funny makeup.  But the technology, both of the humans and the Builder artifacts, seems to be more arbitrary fiat than scientific speculation, and none of it seems to be anchored in recognizable science.  The story is a fast and furious adventure, but it seems to take place in a drug-induced fantasy as much as a technological future.  The characters are somewhat engaging, but they failed to draw me in deeply enough to overcome my difficulty in getting into the world.

I don't mean to say that this book is terrible.  The writing is good enough, page by page, to keep me reading.  But the experience is not up to my expectations, based on other Sheffield I've read.  There are two more novels in this series on my shelf right now, and at this point I'm not sure if I'm going to read them in the hope that they will have the spark I expect from Sheffield, or skip them based on the expectations this volume sets.

6 out of 10.

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