by Jerry Wright
Author: Wil MacCarthy
Publisher: Bantam Spectra
Hardcover: August, 2000
Paperback: November, 2002
Rough time this week. I read a number of books. But which to choose? Storm Constantine's The Crown Of Silence? Another Liaden book I just found? The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, Gordy Dickson's The Space Winners, or possibly Cataclysm by James Curtis? I will get to some of these later, but right now, I'm choosing The Collapsium by Wil McCarthy. Why? Several reasons.
This book reminds me of "Astounding Tales of Super Science". The first third of the book is an award winning novelette called "Once Upon a Matter Crushed" (first published in SF Age 5/99). The protagonist, Bruno de Towaji, is a super genius in the manner of Richard Seaton and Arcot (of the J.W. Campbell stories), but he also reminds me of Rustum Battachariya (from the Charles Sheffield books). Bruno doesn't need anyone. He's insanely rich, and a loner with no social skills to speak of, but once upon a time, he was the love-interest of the Queen of Sol. Now he is needed to save the Sun from being destroyed by an application of his creation, collapsium, the bedrock of transportation and communication.
McCarthy, who IS a rocket scientist, writes in a sort of neo-Victorian style, which I found quite likeable, and his super-science bypasses the Vingean singularity, even though immortality and a comfortable lifestyle are pretty much in reach of everyone. This book has lots of appendices in which McCarthy tries to justify his science, and his "future history", and they are an engaging read, although I needed to increase my "suspension of disbelief" quite a bit, to keep from choking on some of the concepts.
Unfortunately, though Wil couldn't keep the quality of the two following segments as high as the initial offering, I still found the book a worth-while read. I think that probably the less science you know, the more fun you'll find the book. I enjoyed it, but it made me hungry for Part Two of Tony Daniel's Metaplanetary, coming out shortly. --Jerry