by Robert J. Sawyer
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
In the wake of his Nebula-Award winning The Terminal Experiment, which examined medical ethics, Robert J. Sawyer has turned his attention to good old-fashioned space opera with his new novel, Starplex.
As with most good old-fashioned space opera, Starplex is weakest when it comes to characterizations. Sawyer's viewpoint character, Keith Lansing, is not a particularly interesting or fully portrayed character. In fact, he could probably be interchanged with any of a number of other characters encountered throughout SF. However, Sawyer makes up for Keith's weaknesses with his portrayal of aliens.
Sawyer can write aliens. He proved that in his Quintaglio Cycle: an allegorical trilogy about the lives of Galileo, Darwin and Freud with dinosaur descendants in the starring roles. The aliens he has created for Starplex, the Ibs, Waldahudin and Darmats, are much more interesting that any of the human characters who populate the novel. Possibly because the Ibs provide mostly a support role, they appear as the most interesting race in the novel.
Most important of all in a good old-fashioned space opera is a sense of wonder. Although muted, Sawyer manages to capture this feeling. Although not dealing with cosmic issues (I could have taken a bit more mysticism), Sawyer's scope is big. The novel ranges over six billion light years and ten billion years.
Although Sawyer wraps up most of the plot by the end of the novel, he leaves enough open for a slew of sequels set at various times in the novel's universe. In truth, some of his explanations seem to be rather rushed and the reader is left with the desire that Sawyer either expanded the book by several pages or even left their resolution for a sequel.
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