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The Well Of Stars
Robert Reed
Tor, 352 pages

Robert Reed
Robert Reed was born, raised and currently is the only SWFA member living in Nebraska. He was the gold-prize winner in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest in 1986 for his story "Mudpuppies" (under the pen-name Robert Touzalin). His first two novels, The Leeshore and The Hormone Jungle, appeared in 1987. These were followed by Black Milk (1990), Down the Bright Way (1991), The Remarkables (1992), Beyond the Veil of Stars (1994), An Exaltation of Larks (1995), and Beneath the Gated Sky (1997). He is also a writer of a great deal of short fiction, including the recent "Marrow," one of Locus's selections for the top 10 stories of 1997. His short fiction has twice been nominated for the Hugo Award. He has had numerous short stories published in Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and other major magazines. Reed has also been working for several years on a science fiction thriller which he likens to "Jurassic Park meets Dances With Wolves."

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Mere
SF Site Review: Coelacanths
SF Site Review: Marrow
SF Site Review: The Dragons of Springplace
SF Site Review: An Exaltation of Larks

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Greg L. Johnson

The Well Of Stars Ah, back to the hard stuff. The Well of Stars continues the story of the Great Ship, first introduced in Marrow and Mere. The Great Ship is a fabulous creation, a spaceship so large that there is a planet hidden at its center. No one knows who built it. It was found and boarded by human beings, who, along with a host of other species, decided to take the ship on a ride through the Milky Way. The events recounted in Marrow have left the ship damaged, with a new course taking it right into an unknown part of space, the Inkwell Nebula. The cast of characters, some familiar, some new, work furiously to repair the ship and prepare for what awaits them.

Inside the nebula is an exotic species which calls itself a polypond. At first seemingly friendly, the Captains and passengers on the Great Ship soon suspect that the polypond isn't as much clearing a path through the nebula as it is guiding the ship to an unknown encounter.

The Well of Stars presents a fascinating society being pushed to the limit. Humans and others are nearly immortal, even accidental death can usually be repaired. The result is people who think and plan in terms nearly incomprehensible to us. Robert Reed succeeds as well as any writer has in depicting the thinking of people living this way. Plans are laid down not just in terms of decades, but of centuries, and millennia. One character who develops an interest in an obscure branch of mathematics usually studied only by Artificial Intelligences announces that, after several thousand years of work, he can see a time, possibly in a million years or so, when he will be able to make a contribution. Reed's literary technique also works to make this point. Transitions that in a usual novel would be hours or days here cover years, if not decades. Reed's prose is suffused with the language of science, perhaps only Greg Egan's writing is denser with technical discussion. But where Egan's use of language can at times be a barrier to the reader, Reed's writing is more user friendly, it's an invitation to join in the discussion, not a gate-barring entry.

The Well of Stars is a big ambitious book that succeeds in almost all aspects. In terms of both ideas presented and artful execution it ranks with the very best of the last decade's hard science fiction, comparable to works by Greg Egan, Vernor Vinge, and Alastair Reynolds. For all of us who think that literate, provocative hard SF is at the core of what science fiction should be, The Well of Stars is just the kind of book we're always hoping to find.

Copyright © 2005 by Greg L. Johnson

Reviewer Greg L. Johnson is contemplating booking passage on the Great Ship the next time it swings through his part of the galaxy, if he can figure out a way to live that long. His reviews also appear in the The New York Review of Science Fiction.

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