Sunday, 29 May 2016
Big SF Sagas
"Bowl of Heaven is the first installment of what will be the bigget sci-fi saga since - well, since ever."
-The Wall Street Journal
No. Such statements are not even meant to be believed. We make our own judgments about whether to buy or read a book and rarely check afterwards whether we agree with such extravagant reviews. Benford and Niven have each written at least one bigger sf saga and Poul Anderson wrote several.
Anderson's The Boat Of A Million Years spans history before it tackles slower than light interstellar exploration and First Contact. Bowl... gives us a big artifact but so did Niven's Ringworld and there are some other examples. Big Artifacts could become a sub-genre.
If we turn from unhelpful comparisons to the book's contents, we find that Bowl... contains a by now familiar kind of speculative fiction:
the Bowl is profusely populated;
dinosaurs were imported from Earth;
parallel and convergent evolution operates;
avian forms fare better and grow bigger in lower gravity;
a grazer has ears turned upward to detect flying predators and is more vulnerable to human hunters;
some plants have D-amino instead of L-amino so they can be eaten but not digested;
some human explorers are captured by and communicate with the dominant species;
others run free and explore the environment.
This is fertile material for yet another multi-author anthology to which Poul Anderson could readily have contributed.