Peterson’s science-fiction debut follows a contingent of humans as they take the maiden voyage on the “ultimate spaceship” only to find themselves hopelessly off-course and humankind’s last hope to save the universe from death by extreme entropy—the Big Rip.
This wildly imaginative epic adventure incorporates a virtual cornucopia of science-based speculation and plot elements: extraterrestrial contact, near-instant interstellar travel, a looming galactic apocalypse, the existence of a multiverse and more. The enigmatic Dorts—giant, translucent, amoebalike entities—have been on Earth for three centuries and the single advancement that they brought with them has been nothing short of revolutionary—it’s called the Transformation Theory, a radical new approach to space travel. Reinterpreted by human physicists, the resulting effort is the Great Cone, a massive “transformation vehicle” inhabited by an eclectic community of humans preparing to take a historic journey to the stars. Their trip, however, is fraught with setbacks, culminating in their arrival at a seemingly dead planet that is anything but. A memorable line from the story appropriately describes the novel: “The conclusion…is clear-cut. We have mixed results.” The hard-science-fiction-powered narrative elements are nothing short of glorious, instilling a sense of wonder that is very much comparable to sci-fi classics like Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama and John Varley’s Gaea trilogy (Titan, Wizard and Demon). But, as is the case with many ambitious sci-fi epics, the characters are all but overshadowed by the grand-scale narrative. Aside from the largely forgettable cast, there are other shortcomings; at points, the narrative becomes wearisomely protracted (a good editor would’ve shaved off a considerable amount) and the drawn-out ending—although the author was apparently setting the table for a sequel—could’ve been much more impactful.
Hard science-fiction fans will find this shelf-bending debut impressive; an ambitious novel that doesn’t quite hit it out of the park.