Reviews Logo
SearchHomeContents PageSite Map
The Duke of Uranium
John Barnes
Warner Aspect, 290 pages

The Duke of Uranium
John Barnes
John Barnes was born in 1957. He received his BA and MA in political science from Washington University, then worked as a systems analyst and in various kinds of computer consulting, mostly reliability math and human interfaces. He received a dual Master's degree (MFA English (Writing), MA Theatre (Directing) from the University of Montana in 1988. He earned a Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh (Theatre Arts) in 1995; his specialties were performance semiotics and design/tech. From 1994 to 2001 he taught theatre, rhetoric, and communications at Western State College in Gunnison, Colorado. He now lives in downtown Denver, writing and consulting fulltime; he may be the only paid consulting semiotician in the world, since he has not met or heard of any others. He has been married and divorced twice, which is quite enough for anybody.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: One for the Morning Glory
SF Site Review: Finity
SF Site Review: Finity
SF Site Review: Apostrophes & Apocalypses

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rob Kane

He didn't get admitted to the Academy, now he'll have to join the army and his girlfriend has been kidnapped. Oh, and the Galactic Council just might decide that humans are not worth the bother and order extermination. Yet, all in all, eighteen-year-old Jak is having the time of his life.

Jak and his friends have recently graduated from school, only to find that life is not turning out as expected. Poor grades have all but relegated them to careers they would rather not have. But the youthful optimism of the young teenagers helps to keep their spirits afloat, as they prepare to take what life has dealt them. Jak turns to the army as his best chance of leaving the Hive and experiencing adventure. His best friend decides to go for fame as a pro-slamball player. And his girlfriend decides to become a social parasite, living off her family's fortune. Their high spirits crash, however, when Jak's girlfriend Sesh is kidnapped right in front of his eyes. It turns out that not only are Sesh's parents rich, but that they are rulers of a small kingdom and Sesh is a princess.

Thirty-sixth century lobby groups are vicious. It is one of them, Triangle One, in conjunction with the Duke of Uranium, who have arranged for Sesh's kidnapping. Jak's uncle, coincidently, is a spy master for one of Triangle One's rival factions. Jak is recruited to act as a courier, delivering a message which will hopefully get Sesh back and create a rift between Triangle One and the Duke. So off he goes on the dangerous mission, filled with youthful enthusiasm.

Through the story of Jak's travels, the reader gets a good view of John Barnes's vision of the thirty-sixth century. Occasional breaks from the narrative are effectively used to describe the details of this serenely majestic future. Two giant space stations centered around black holes float through space. The Hive, Jak's home world, is a massive structure administered by a large bureaucracy and functions as a single nation. The Aerie, is composed of all manner of nations large and small, including Greenworld, Sesh's home country. Meanwhile, Sun Clippers, with their thousand-square-mile sails, glide elegantly through the solar system in perpetual orbit. It all adds up to a believable and enticing glimpse of a possible future.

The Duke of Uranium is rather light-hearted, a feeling that comes both from the characters and the setting. The principal cast of characters, Jak and his friends, are just on the verge of adulthood. They are rather free-spirited and bold characters, always willing party, or to cross the solar system to help each other. Over the course of the story, Jak's character undergoes some growth as he takes on new responsibilities and experiences life outside the station. Life is not necessarily just fun and games, and he demonstrates his ability to adapt to a slightly more serious adult world. However, all the character development is centered around Jak, and his friends remain as they always were. The story atmosphere is fed by the setting, largely in how it clashes with our current world. It is a setting where rainbow clothing is conservative and bowler hats are the cutting edge of fashion. This all combines to give the book its tone. The plot itself is a fun little romp. Throughout it, the reader never doubts that the ending will be a happy one; anything else would just be against the nature of the story.

The Duke of Uranium is a book that likely has something for everyone. A little bit of action, a little bit of romance, a little of bit of vision. In the end, it is a fun and entertaining book, suitable for all readers.

Copyright © 2003 Rob Kane

Robert learned to read with a litle help from Lloyd Alexander, and he hasn't stopped reading fantasy since then. No matter how busy life gets he can always find time for a good book.

SearchContents PageSite MapContact UsCopyright

If you find any errors, typos or other stuff worth mentioning, please send it to
Copyright © 1996-2014 SF Site All Rights Reserved Worldwide