Copyright 1979 by
I first read this on the 27th April 2002.
Three hundred years in our future technology may have improved but people
haven't. Society is even less stable than today. The US President, in a fit
of depression rather than vision, commands the creation of a vast colony ship
in a last ditch attempt to ensure that, when the crunch comes, some fragment
of humanity will survive it.
The massive ship is built in space. It's almost two kilometers long and a half
wide. It's controlled by a state-of-the-art computer system commanding servos
throughout the ship that will enable it to fully maintain itself, while at the
same time, providing a high, indeed luxurious, level of service to the passengers.
When full the ship will hold twenty-five thousand passengers for the
century-long voyage to Canopus.
For the passengers a mere fifteen years will pass before they set down on
a virgin world to forge a new home.
There's only two problems with this scenario. The passengers aren't all perhaps
the best examples of human development to date. The government has taken this
opportunity to unload some of its undesirables from Earth. Secondly, the
requirements for the controlling computer are so strenuous that only a new kind of
computer technology was determined to be capable of fulfilling them. The ship is to
be controlled by a biological computer, based upon a human brain.
However the voyage could still have been successful, were it not for the failure of the
engines shortly after launch. Instead of the relatively short fifteen year sprint,
the journey will now take several hundred years and generations will and die upon the
ship as it slowly travels to Canopus.
My problem was that I kept losing track of the current date. I liked the
characters recurring through the generations. However, It's difficult to empathise
with such "short-lived" characters and if one of these mayflies does manage to
grab one's sympathy for a moment, it's just another thimbleful of those old
heartbreak blues when they die of old age a few pages later. That O'Donnell
managed to make me empathize with so many is a testament to his writing skill. But
ultimately the story is only partly successful.
Read this and enjoy it, but then read O'Donnell's "Ora:cle" and see how good he can
Loaded on the 2nd June 2002.