What do you REALLY ask of a book, anyway? Isn’t it true that if you can just get lost in some cool world, check out of this one for a while, maybe run into some chin-scratching ideas along the way, meet some fictional folks who you care about one way or the other – love or hate or whatever, then it’s all cool? Me too. Here’s one.
So I tried a different Schroeder book a while back (‘Lady Of Mazes’) and saw enough potential to try him again, though his style was bugging me. Seemed to ramble a bit. Don’t point at me, I’m the one typing here. This one was worlds better though. I’ll prove it – see what you think. It’s called, ‘Sun Of Suns’, by Karl Schroeder, first in his, ‘Virga’ series.
Virga is a massive fullerene balloon three thousand kilometers in diameter but filled with air. There are spherical lakes and massive chunks of floating rock – all aimless. The people living in Virga form and ignite their own little fusion suns for light and heat; but that leaves huge swathes of the atmosphere left in winter where there are no towns. There isn’t a single government or even a single planetoid where these folks live either – they’re on individual floating towns made from huge wood and rope wheels, spun for centripetal gravity. You can jump from one to the other if they’re close enough. You can fly from one to the other on hover bikes. It takes a few pages to get used to what he’s painting for you; but I haven’t come across such memorable imagery for a while. Would be amazing to see maybe in anime if not live action.
The story centers on a guy named, Hayden whose tiny town was slaughtered by a larger town six years ago when they tried to set off their own sun to gain independence. Hayden’s looking for revenge, targeting the Admiral who he’s almost certain (but not entirely certain) led the attack. He of course gets in the fireworks and intrigue of something larger with everyone he’s mad at, but also with a mysterious lady who is impossibly not even from Virga at all. The Admiral’s wife is beautiful but conniving and nasty; and Hayden tags along with her for a sizeable chunk of the narrative. She’s also the subject of the second book in the series, ‘Queen Of Candesce’.
When I was a kid in summertime, I’d ride my bike down our long driveway and around the yard imagining I was on a hover bike, stopping in at a floating maintenance shop and spying for somebody preparing for the revolution or whatever. This book had every bit of that, which smoked my mind a little because how the heck could something so weird in my head show up in print now? Schroeder did an ‘Inception’ on me. That was fun to see.
One scene in the book made my Physics mini-me flinch a bit; but he redeemed himself and nailed something down that is incredibly unique and worth the price of admission on its own. I don’t think it’s a spoiler; but you may think so. If you’re worried about that, skip the next paragraph and join me at the end. I’ll wait for you there.
The key characters pay a visit to a small town that has inserted itself into a massive spherical ball of water. They used a water-repellent cone the size of a freaking town and wedged it into the sphere, carving out a place where they constructed their buildings and hide away from all the intrigue and conflict within Virga. Flinch, read it, stick with where he’s going…incredible idea, maybe could work…wouldn’t want to live there…hope they don’t fire any guns at the walls.
My point is this then: great book! I read a lot of pulp science fiction from the 1930’s and 1940’s like ‘Brigands Of The Moon’ by Ray Cummings or ‘The Metal Monster’ or ‘The Ship Of Ishtar’ by Abraham Merritt. ‘Sun Of Suns’ has that feel of fun and danger and outlandish technology. Don’t look for deep philosophical musings or ominous quests or galactic battles here, you won’t find them. Read my first paragraph again up there…if those things make it happen for you, then give this book a shot. Let me know what you think.
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