NESFA Members' Reviews

coverDark as Day

by Charles Sheffield

A book review by Mark L. Olson

Tor, 2002, $27.95, 477 pp

Dark as Day is a sequel to Cold as Ice, which introduced a fairly interesting future. In the mid-2100s, with human settlements on Mars, the Belt and Jupiter, a major war breaks out between the Belt and everyone else. It's fought with a variety of sciffy weapons and leaves the Solar System devastated. Both books are set perhaps thirty years after that war in a revived civilization centered on the moons of Jupiter.

Bat (Rustum Battachariya, the main character of Cold as Ice) is a Nero Wolfian misfit, a Master of the Puzzle Network (an on-line assemblage of some of the smartest and weirdest people in the Solar System). One of his passions is collecting Great War weapons (mostly harmless). In his quest for some of the more exotic weaponry, he has gotten hints of a Belt Doomsday Weapon, called Dark as Day. What is it? No one knows, but Bat wants one.

Alex Ligon is an heir to the Ligon family, one of the richest in the Solar System, but he's much more interested in working at a predictive modeling job for the Ganymede government. His models, based on a revolutionary design, predict difficult times ahead for the whole Solar System. His family would like him to take more interest in being a rapacious businessman, however.

Milly Wu is a SETI researcher working in one of the two fiercely rival SETI stations, when she discovers a signal containing a possible alien message. The Puzzle Network gets drawn into the SETI work when the SETI researchers realize that the signal, far from being simple, is incredibly complex and master puzzlers are an ideal group to work out its meaning.

Ligon, too, gets drawn into SETI when his models start showing that the one thing which might preserve the human race over the long term is contact with non-Human intelligence, and into contact with Bat when his family corporation desperately needs access to Bat's asteroid.

Sheffield does a good job bringing this all together into a credible story with a decent chase and resolution. I enjoyed the story.

I will note that the science behind the doomsday weapon is ludicrous, the weapon's designer's plot to use it is far too contrived to be successful or plausible, the Seine is based on the utterly false premise that quantum entanglement can transmit signals FTL, Alex Ligon's model is ridiculous – can you say "chaos" children? – and even if it weren't, no one would have designed it to go looking for its own data, and the timing is all wrong for Sheffield's explanation of the flaws in it anyway. In other words, don't look behind the curtain!

But it was a fun story.

See also my review of Sheffield's The Billion Dollar Boy and Dark as Day

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