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Singularity's Ring
Paul Melko
Tor, 316 pages

Singularity's Ring
Paul Melko
Paul Melko has had stories appear in Asimov's, Realms of Fantasy, Strange Horizons, Terra Incognita, Talebones, The Year's Best Science Fiction, 21st Collection and 22nd Collection. He lives in Columbus, Ohio with his family.

Paul Melko Website
ISFDB Bibliography

A review by Greg L. Johnson

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The post-human universe isn't just for grown-ups anymore. In his first novel, Paul Melko brings the classic style of young adult science fiction headlong into a future where the singularity has come and gone, leaving old-fashioned human beings and a new kind of humanity, the pods, reeling and attempting to recover in its wake. It's a fast-moving story full of adventure, angst, and the growing pains of a young being known as Apollo Papadopulos.

The singularity came to Earth in the form of a group mind known as the Community. At its height, the Community included nearly all human beings. It engineered a spectacular artificial ring that still encircles the planet, and then left, disappearing with all its members into a hole on space, leaving the remnants of humanity behind. Since that time, some human beings have learned how to genetically engineer individuals in order to form the pods, people whose near-telepathic ability to communicate with each other allows them to become a new kind of being distinct from their existence as individuals. Apollo, one of the first quintuple pods, is made up of Strom, Meda, Quant, Manuel and Moira. Each individual brings a different set of talents to their existence as a pod. Together, they have been designed to captain the starship that will be launched in order to find out what happened to the Community.

It's a daunting responsibility, and as we are first introduced to Apollo the five of him have been dumped into the Rocky Mountains for survival training. We are introduced to them first as individuals, though it quickly becomes apparent that each of them is more comfortable as a group than they ever could be alone. The survival mission quickly becomes serious and deadly, and after a couple more episodes it becomes apparent that someone is attempting to stop Apollo from completing his training, and is willing to kill in order to do so.

That sense of danger and intrigue adds tension to a story that also features some very traditional human story elements. The individuals that make up Apollo are young enough to feel a need to rebel against authority, and are trying to find a place for themselves in a world that has in many ways pre-determined their existence. All the classical elements of teen-age angst come into play as Apollo strikes out on his own to find out just who is attempting to kill him, and why.

Anyone who grew up reading the science fiction juveniles of the 50s will recognize what's going on here, and for young readers of today Melko has added many of the ideas currently being played with in more cutting-edge science fiction. The singularity, the emergence of a post-human species, genetic engineering and the machinations of an artificial intelligence all add up to a novel that feels classical in its SF roots, and very up to date in its exploration of ideas.

Singularity's Ring owes a great debt to what has gone before. The influences of Robert A. Heinlein, and Theodore Sturgeon are quite evident, but Paul Melko has fashioned them into a story that feels fresh and exciting. In Singularity's Ring, readers young and old should find a story that merges the latest concepts in science fiction with a style that thoroughly evokes the sense of wonder of old.

Copyright © 2008 by Greg L. Johnson

Reviewer Greg L Johnson especially enjoyed Apollo's encounters with a family of grizzly bears in the Rocky Mountain wilderness. His reviews also appear in the The New York Review of Science Fiction. And, for something different, Greg blogs about news and politics relating to outdoors issues and the environment at Thinking Outside.


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