NESFA Members' Reviews


by Charles Sheffield

Bantam Spectra, ISBN 0-553-37808-2, 1996, 368pp, US$13.95

A book review by Evelyn C. Leeper

Copyright 1997 Evelyn C. Leeper

This is an expansion of Sheffield's novella "At the Eschaton," and deals with the life of a man and of the universe. It does this by setting up a situation in which our protagonist Drake Merlin (catchy name, that) is cryogenically preserved along with his wife, who has just died of a rare disease. The plan is that they will be revived when science has progressed enough to resurrect and cure her. However, Drake finds himself revived ahead of time to solve first one problem, then another that only he can solve, while science still has not found a cure. It's almost as if we are reading something like Olaf Stapledon's LAST AND FIRST MEN, but with a single observer throughout. There is a real sense of wonder, and of the sweep of history, and Sheffield on the whole does a good job of making this all convincing, although some events are just downright unbelievable. (For example, at one point Drake is rebuilt by creatures with no previous knowledge of human physiology.)

On the downside, Sheffield's writing tends toward the straightforward rather than the poetic, and occasionally make odd missteps. At one point he offers the following: "'Hubris,' he said, in English." I suppose "hubris" is an honorary English word, but still.... On page 183, Tom says to Drake, "Our Galaxy is being invaded by something from outside." On page 187, Drake says to Tom, "This galaxy is being--" and then stops. According to Sheffield, "Now Drake had to pause. He wanted to say 'invaded,' but that word had apparently vanished from the language." In four pages?

These are, I suppose, minor quibbles. For those who love Stapledon and such other works as John Brunner's CRUCIBLE OF TIME, or for anyone wanting a look at a far future vision, I recommend this book.

%T      Tomorrow & Tomorrow
%A      Charles Sheffield
%C      New York
%D      December 1996
%I      Bantam Spectra
%O      trade paperback, US$13.95
%G      ISBN 0-553-37808-2
%P      368pp

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