A wealthy visionary races to launch humanity’s first starship to a habitable planet before overpopulation, religious fanatics, and other 21st-century horrors destroy Earth in this sci-fi tale.
Hard science fiction and hard, Objectivist-style philosophy combine in this interstellar survival-adventure from Powers (I, Quetzecoatl, 2012), much like one of the alloys he lovingly describes in its more hardware-oriented passages. The John Galt-esque hero, known simply as Floyd, is an American billionaire circa 2067, who, as a child, lost his parents to Muslim terrorists who’ve taken over Europe. He uses his inherited wealth from Floyd Enterprises to principally save himself and his closest associates from the catastrophes of war, crime, famine, overpopulation, and religious mania. As quietly as possible, he buys a giant storage tank in the gang-ridden, industrial slums of New Jersey and outfits it as a starship, with revolutionary, quantum-based “warp drives” of his own conception (discussed at length and made distinct from the similarly named engines in the Star Trek mythos). When his ship is fully operational, he plans to escape to distant Kepler-452B, a possibly life-supporting world about 10 years away at sub-light-speed, if everything works as planned. Due to seemingly insurmountable engineering problems, the first part of the book is heavy with physics and propulsion propositions, which the author makes wonderfully believable, if abstruse. After the fraught liftoff, readers are treated to alternating moments of peril and Floyd’s preaching about the world left behind, which he says has fallen prey to extinction-event-level climate change, failing economies, and apocalyptic religions; he blasts Judeo-Christianity but makes Islam the principle villain. Floyd wants to try to get things right with an agrarian, low-tech sustainable community—if the ship can hold together and avoid freezing solid. Eventually, the book also includes a sort of spirituality (of the Eastern/Native American variety) and romance. Balancing the various thrills against the soliloquies is a tricky orbital maneuver, but the author succeeds magnificently, avoiding genre pitfalls that have made the Noah’s-Ark-in-space premise a genre cliché. Loose ends at the conclusion provide fodder for a sequel without leaving too much unfinished business.
Big-idea sci-fi readers will likely find this an awesome, challenging ride.