Raft, Blind Lake

I picked up Raft because I haven’t quite given up on Stephen Baxter yet. It’s an old juvenlie of his, which is to say it’s a boy’s coming-of-age story, so characterization, even of said Boy, is a bit sketchy. Raft makes up for it in spades, though, with a truly original milieu.

Boy is the descendent of the survivors of a unique shipwreck - somehow his forebears took a wrong turn into a high-gravity universe where trees fly and miners walk on the surface of dead suns. The plot turns on the consequences of high, and apparently increasing, gravity, as Boy explores the decaying human societies and meets the wildlife. It’s a wonderful example of the genre.

I also found Blind Lake in the library right before it was slashdotted. Robert Charles Wilson writes some odd stuff, and this one is no exception. An observatory spies on lobster-shaped aliens using a technology no one seems to understand. A group of science journalists come to the Blind Lake installation at the wrong time and are caught in a security lockdown. But how can an observatory threaten to contaminate Earth - with memes?

The characters are well-drawn and their problems unusually normal for science fiction - joint custody, annoying bosses, the trials of being a science writer - but my favorite was the young girl in the middle of the custody battle. Blind Lake manages to be both a a good novel and good sci-fi. I’m not sure it could have been better on either side without a loss on the other.

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