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    Review of SCHILD'S LADDER by Greg Egan (see his website)

    EOS, May 2002

    When a physics experiment goes horribly wrong, scientists are confronted with something like a big bang--a universe expanding within our own universe. As it expands at half light speed, the new universe snuffs out sun after sun, human-supporting planet after human-supporting planet. Not that this means that billions of people die--all are evacuated. At least for now. Aboard the research ship Rindler, two parties have emerged. One wishes to destroy the new universe before it destroys our own. The other calls for more research and wonders whether this new universe might not hold something unique and wonderful.

    Author Greg Egan combines an ecological tale with an intriguing look into speculative physics and an examination of the sociology of people who never need die, yet who can only travel across the distances of space by permanently cutting the social ties that bind them in place. Each of these is interesting in its own right and the three together make for a truly fascinating read.

    Egan attempts to personalize the tale by reuniting two lovers--who last met four thousand years in the past. One is now dedicated to the destruction of the new universe--the other hopes to study and learn from it. To a certain extent, the attempt is successful. Certainly having point of view characters adds a great deal to the novel. Still, the story is not one of people (or even of the post-human beings that populate the novel), instead it is one of ideas.

    Fans of hard speculative fiction will find SCHILD'S LADDER an essential addition to their libraries.

    Three Stars

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