It starts with a gremlin. The Eriophora is a space ship built inside an asteroid packed with 30,000 crew members and one mission: to build gates that will allow humanity to quickly travel among the stars. But they’re taking the long route and it takes millennia of travel time between builds, and they’ve built far too many gates. Eriophora is built for this, but a “gremlin” grazing the ship after a gate build spooks the crew and some of them want to overthrow the Chimp, the AI driving the mission. There’s just one problem; how do you overthrow an AI if you’re only awake for days in the span of millennia?
Off the bat, let me bring up that this is the latest in a series of short stories, though this one is novella+ size. I have not read the Sunflowers series of which this belongs beforehand, and I was not lost in the plot or setting. Discussion around the novel seemed to indicate that having read the previous stories may make some of the plot elements more obvious or pre-determined, but I didn’t have that experience.
What I love about this novel is the same thing I love about all of Watts’ novels. It’s an excellent blend of “feels like it could be real” science and then driving it all the way out to “this asteroid flying through space is millions of years past our timeline”. Their reasonable explanation for how this ship has survived so long is the perfect combination of magic and reality. It touches philosophical topics around artificial life and what it means to possibly be the last humans. I really don’t have a lot of fault it on. I clamor for more, but I can have more by reading the short stories. There’s even a short story hidden in this novel! The end, as usual for Watts, left me agape. I will be re-reading this.
Baseline Assessment: 8/10
Bonuses: +1 end-to-end hard SF that doesn’t bore for a single second
Nerd Coefficient: 9/10 (very high quality/standout in its category)
POSTED BY: brian, sci-fi/fantasy/video game dork and contributor since 2014