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Tomorrow & Tomorrow
Charles Sheffield
Bantam Spectra, $5.99 US
Paperback reprint, 422 pages
Publication date: January 12, 1998

A review by Leon Olszewski

Drake Merlin falls in love with Ana, a fellow student. Their life together is bliss, with Drake composing high quality, albeit little known, musical works and Ana a successful concert singer. When Ana falls ill, there is little that medical science can do for her. Drake puts together a plan where she is to be frozen and put in suspended animation, until there is a cure for her condition. Once she is frozen, he starts the other half of his plan -- for himself to be frozen until they both can be together.

When he is awakened five centuries later, the reason is not that a cure has been found for Ana. Instead, a music historian has reawakened Drake so that Drake can provide guidance about "ancient" music. The people of 2512 find his single-mindedness of curing and reviving Ana to border on mental illness. Drake learns to hide it from his hosts and plots to fulfill his dream.

He tells his patron that he will take a ship on a sight-seeing tour of the solar system. Part-way through the tour, he sets a course for Pluto where the cryogenic crypts are kept. He steals the cryowomb where Ana lays waiting and programs a large looping course. By using relativistic effects, he makes another sojourn into the future.

Skipping forward through time, he encounters the human race as it evolves. He is told that there is only one chance to be reunited with Ana, to be with her when the Omega Point occurs. The Omega Point is the reverse of the Big Bang, when the entire mass of the universe contracts back into a singularity. And at that moment, one can create a new reality. His goal now is to survive the 50 billion years until the Big Crunch. Before he can proceed, he needs to save the galaxy from an invading force -- a task he alone can do because of his primitive, aggressive nature.

Charles Sheffield shows us one possible future, both for humankind and for the universe. With his firm grounding in math and physics he lays out what happens in a closed universe -- one that will collapse in on itself.

The story is highly imaginative and the plot has many inventive twists. For instance, if a collective consciousness is possible, then what happens if that collective consciousness is composed of multitudes of the same person, sent out in different directions, then reassembled?

I enjoyed the story very much, but I was bothered by three details, one psychological and two technological. Drake Merlin had to be obsessed, and truly bordering on mentally ill, in his desire to meet up with his Ana in the future. Yet we overlook this obsession, perhaps because we associate it with a quest, and because it is for love. One of the technological details is that, despite the passage of millions or billions of years, Drake is still capable of remembering all that has happened to himself during that time. Yet there isn't any description of how to store, much less access that much information. Finally, over the time frame that is described, billions of years, I would have expected a larger change in humankind. In fairness though, humans would learn how to exert control and might decide to not change as radically as we "naturally" would.

In an appendix, the author provides a scientific discussion about the collapse of the universe, in addition to another possible future where the universe continues to expand without limit. With today's knowledge, the scientific community has not been able to determine which scenario will happen. This scientific essay is the most readable since those of Isaac Asimov. It provides the reader with a greater understanding of the science without requiring an advanced degree.

Copyright © 1998 by Leon Olszewski

Leon Olszewski has read science fiction and fantasy for most of his life. He works at Spyglass, Inc. as their Manager of Network Services.

Tomorrow & Tomorrow
Charles Sheffield
The winner of Hugo and Nebula Awards (for the novelette Georgia on my Mind) and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award (for the novel Brother to Dragons), Charles Sheffield is an established author. He writes science articles and books, as well as novels in the horror and thriller genres. Aftermath, his next novel, is expected in the summer. By training, he is a mathematician and a novelist. He lives in Maryland, MD.

Charles Sheffield Website
ISFDB Bibliography
The Omega Point
Convergence - An online story

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