Copyright 2000 by
I first read this in December 2001.
Just a few hundred years in the future, humans discover a gigantic spaceship
in the depths of interstellar space. The vessel is the size of Jupiter,
it's empty, abandoned and of almost unimaginable antiquity.
Humans occupy it and eventually achieve some degree of control over
this monstrous vessel, offering passage through the galaxy to any human
or alien, who wants to take the trip of a lifetime.
In the centre of this ship, hidden and protected, they will discover the
most astounding secret.
I'll avoid going into any further detail about the plot, but believe me:
this is a superlative piece of science fiction. I picked it up in
Singapore from MPH as airplane fodder for a flight to Tokyo. I knew
nothing about the author, and little about the novel (just a short
paragraph on the back cover) and simply hoped for an amusing read.
I started reading during the turbulent flight and even though I was
barely paying attention, the notion eventually percolated through that
this might be a great book.
I put the book away and occupied myself as well as I could over the
remaining hours of the flight, drinking vodka martinis and failing
pathetically to engage either my neighbour or the stewardess in
conversation, eventually reduced to mentally drafting a letter to the
Singapore government asking them why on earth they make their entry forms
so completely unreadable under aircraft lighting. So it was with some
excitement that I finally settled into my seat on the excellent Keisei
Skyliner from Narita airport into Tokyo and, popping open a can of
black coffee and lighting a much-needed cigarette, finally got down to
some serious reading for the hour-long journey to Ueno.
Yes, it's astounding, the ship is the Gormanghast of spacecraft.
You thought the Battlestar was big? Pah! That's just a peanut compared
to this elephantine vessel. Marrow itself, and the technology that
allows it to survive, is another wonder - an astonishing place.
This book is full of excellent ideas but what gets me above all is the
vast timescale of the novel, as our near-immortal humans, Washen, Miocene, Diu and Pamir and of course
the Master Captain herself survive and struggle down through the ages.
So what's it got? Almost everything really: aliens, alien technology,
biotechnology to die for, space-travel, hand-to-hand fighting and space
battles, asteroid impacts and unexplored worlds and lost civilisations.
No noticeable sex, though.
I really, really hope there's a sequel coming. In the meantime, read
Loaded on the 10th December 2001.