Classic science-fiction components and a general reverence for science make this tale of intergalactic travel a worthy, occasionally awe-inspiring read.
The story begins in the year 2095, when most of the Earth has been destroyed by human negligence, a setting similar to P.D. James’s The Children of Men. One survivor, the middle-aged Hendry, chooses to live out his days in a deserted area of Australia, far away from the widespread terrorism that plagues the globe. One day, his young activist daughter shows up and reveals that she’s leaving Earth for an experimental mission that places thousands of travelers in hypersleep on a ship traveling for centuries to a new planet, where mankind can start from scratch. Before he has time to mourn the loss of his daughter, Hendry is drafted for the project, and awakens on Helix, a group of ring-shaped worlds, with a small band of survivors. Shortly before the crash sequence, Brown cuts abruptly to a different story line on Helix, following an alien race of much smaller size who live in an insular civilization dominated by ferociously judgmental religious rule. Ehrin, a young resident of the community, leads an expedition to explore the mountains beyond their society (echoes of â€œthe forbidden zone” in Planet of the Apes), and the two species inevitably meet. The two converging plot lines are the book’s most uneven sections, and the author takes too long to reveal the planet’s raison d’Ãªtre. But Brown’s spectacular creativity creates a constantly compelling read.
Readers who avoid hardcore sci-fi may not be able to follow the story, but Brown offers a memorable addition to the genre.