Monday, July 11, 2011

The Clockwork Rocket - Greg Egan

The Clockwork Rocket is about a species living in a universe where different colours of light move at different speeds.

The particular species in question on the planet that is the initial setting also have a very different biology. They can morph their bodies to gain extra limbs, or to use their skin as notepads with some training. Reproduction involves the female getting to the stage of literally breaking down into usually four children, two male-female pairs of siblings. The males then have the responsibility of childcare, but also eventually die. Their physiologies have problems with overheating. The process can be staved off for some time by the use of drugs.

They have a low-end industrial society but do have tertiary and other institutions making progress in the sciences.

Yalda is a little different in that she does not have such a sibling and decides to leave the bucolic and dull farming life to become a tertiary student. As it turns out she is rather talented at the whole physics thing, rapidly coming up with a new idea. And also hanging out with some fellow solos and iconoclasts - who are not surprisingly seen as somewhat subversive.

Her studies with others lead her too a worrying story - their planet is in the pass of an increasingly dangerous bombardment from space. Eventually a planetkiller will get them. Eventually being a probability with a mean of not too many years, given that another body of their solar system has suffered this fate.

From such a low industrial base with a non-sophisticated understanding of methods of travel - they decide on the feasible method - launch a mountain into space with a big enough population to maintain a society. And with the physics here, travel into space for them will mean they can be gone for generations, and come back with only a few years passed on the planet, hopefully with scientific advances enough to save them. As long as they survive in space and their society can survive with the original members all long dead.

So a nice outsider girl grows up to be a scientist, leader and hero.

An absolute pleasure to read.


4 out of 5

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