Review of HULL ZERO THREE by Greg Bear (see his website)
Orbit, November 2010
In his dreams, teacher discovers a wonderful world ready for exploration and colonization from his ship. But when he's awakened, the ship is still far in space, near a recently exploded supernova, and nearly destroyed by what appears to have been a civil war within the ship itself. As he explores the hull where he emerged, and later the other hulls that make up the vast century-ship, teacher comes to realize that he was awakened for a purpose--and that he is just one of many versions of himself that have set out to explore the ship and attempt to find a solution that will save it.
A half-wrecked ship in a deadly region of space provides plenty of danger, but the ship has released killers that seem intent on continuing whatever civil war first broke out, and don't seem especially concerned about which side their victims come from. Teacher understands that these killers were intentionally brought, that the colonists from lost Earth knew that they might face enemies in the worlds they sought, and that they might need to create living space by force. Still, what evil resulted in them being unleased on the colonists themselves?
Author Greg Bear (see more BooksForABuck.com reviews of speculative fiction by Bear) creates a convincingly dark and fascinating universe within the wreckage of the three-hulled century-ship. His play with memory and false memories, with created rather than born humans (after all, why should a colonization ship carry actual humans when it could create them from scratch using templates provided by long-disposed-of humans?), and then offering moral dilemmas and hard choices to teacher and other characters when they know that their false memories may lead them in the wrong direction. Bear does an excellent job combining action with a thoughtful evaluation of the moral issues involved in colonization.
HULL ZERO THREE is a well-written and enjoyable fast read. I liked the way Bear played with memory, postulated a universe that rings true in many respects, and introduced twists within twists to move the story along--and send it in new directions. For me, the resolution seemed a bit anti-climactic. I wanted to see Bear ratchet up the emotional stakes and moral dilemmas rather than back away from them--which is what he ultimately did. Still, HULL ZERO THREE is definitely worth the read.
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