Copyright 1990 by
I first read this in 1993 and most recently on the 28th December 2002.
Forty years in the future, climatic changes have redrawn the
surface of our planet. Areas that were once lush
and livable are now wastelands. Conversely areas that were once
uninhabitable are now open for colonisation.
Around the world, giant enclosed habitats are being created.
These 'arks' are populated with endangered species that no longer
have any hope of survival outside a controlled environment.
In this future, the World Data Net has spread the principles
Of Freedom of Information persuasively around the world. Secrecy
is a dirty word. Governments can no longer maintain their secret
armies, secret policies and secret bank accounts. Indeed
the Gnomes of Zurich are no more: Switzerland was destroyed in
the last battle of the new free world.
Jen Wolling is biologist. She's a Nobel laureate.
She's the founder of the Gaia ecological movement. However,
she's an old woman now and her views have diverged from the both
the conventional and the activist outlooks. She rather enjoys
upsetting everybody with her outrageous opinions Currently Jen
is spending her time thinking about competitive evolution and
how it applies to consciousness. Her ideas will prove to be
critical elements as the novel unfolds.
Alan Lustig is Jen's nephew. He's a successful, brilliant
scientist in his own right. However, he's made something of a
mistake in his research. He's unfortunately dropped a microscopic
black-hole into the Earth's core, and it's orbiting beneath the mantle,
acquiring mass. If this bad news gets out, he'll become infamous
the world over. Further investigation reveals good and bad news.
The good news is that Alan's little black hole is too small to
maintain itself and it will slowly fade and die. The bad news is
that there was already a second black hole in the Earth's core.
This anomaly is much bigger and it will
not fade away.
As it absorbs mass from the core, it grows, and as it grows, it
absorbs more mass, and so on until the earth itself is consumed.
Only six months remain before its destructive
effects begin to tear our planet apart.
Alan is certain that the creator of this deadly black-hole must be
some vestige of one of the old national governments and although
they no longer have their old military might, they're certain to come
down very hard on anyone who a secret of this magnitude.
This was fairly interesting the first time around. I like David
Brin. I enjoyed "Startide Rising" and of course I
absolutely love "The Postman".
However, reading this novel a second
time for this review, I almost gave up. It's slow, the
characters are uninteresting, the waffling preface to
each chapter was just a distraction and, bearing in mind
there's only six months left for human life on the
planet, there's almost no tension, no sense of panic, no drama.
While writing this review I actually found it unpleasant picking
the book up to check on notes I'd made. I will not be reading it
I should mention that there are some good thoughts about the
nature of consciousness, and, for a 1990 book, he's anticipated
the popularity of the Internet quite nicely. His World Data Net
is populated with autonomous software agents ferreting out secrets
and invading people's email, so that's pretty accurately foretold.
Or maybe he just read John Brunner's "Stand On Zanzibar" and
"The Shockwave Rider", of which I was frequently reminded while
reading this novel.
What's it got? earth-shaking disasters, artificial intelligence,
space shuttles (including the
just another in the long line of missed-opportunities by the
British Government), zeppelins and fly-wheel buses.
Loaded on the 31st January 2003.