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Biased and superficial Science Fiction reviews

Between The Strokes OF Night

Copyright 1985 by Charles Sheffield

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SOJALS rating:     
one SOJALS point one SOJALS point one SOJALS point no SOJALS point no SOJALS point    Good (3/5)

I first read this in 1985 and most recently on the 17th August 2006

Judith Niles. Charlene Bloom and Wolfgang Gibbs are scientists working at the UN Institute for Neurology in New Zealand. Their areas of speciality are sleep deprivation and low temperature suspended animation. They are making progress but it is far slower than they want. It looks like it is far too slow for the time they'll have left for the world is going to hell in a handbasket. Global warming is accelerating bringing catastrophic climate changes.

Salter Wherry is a billionaire. He's almost solely responsible for the commercial exploitation of outer space. He's made vast sums of money but now he's spending it on the construction of space habitats. He's going to try to save humankind, if he can, and if Planet Earth gives him time enough.

I have said in the past that I'm less than keen on novels that span millennia and conclude with a few brave souls viewing the end of all things, watching in mute acceptance as the galaxies fall back into the monobloc. I prefer shorter, less over-arching novels. I prefer novels that are over by evening, that you safely finish on the tube just as the train slows for your station, indeed the sort of novels you'd read upstairs on a Clapham omnibus. I want novels about a couple of nerdish dudes repairing the gazumickey machine on the kitchen table while the babes bravely make a stand at the kitchen door fighting off the rampaging Undead. Or vice versa, I'm not particular. That's not the Undead bravely making a stand at the kitchen door fighting off rampaging babes, of course.

However, in this case I felt quite the opposite. I loved the novel's sense of scale, and its profligate passage of time. This is a fabulous book. Admittedly the plot is merely entertaining*, but the ideas and occasionally the writing make this book great. Do read this, it is surprisingly good.

*I doubt that worldwide "Planetfest" competition are likely to find the very best, the most talented, and the most brilliant of a planet's population, and in that regard I did snigger at the the news about Syed, near winner of the UK's "The Apprentice".

Loaded on the 16th December 2006.
Cover of Between The Strokes OF Night
Cover art by The Gallery