Bewildering Stories

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The Reading Room

by Jerry Wright

By Karl Schroeder

Permanence is a terrific book. It has flaws, as what book doesn't, but it is an impressive, wild ride. It is at once Heinleinesqe, and Vernor Vingeist... In many ways it reminded me of a Heinlein Juvenile, those books, that 50 years later can still be read and re-read.

The primary character is Meadow-Rue Rosebud Cassels, a girl escaping from her abusive jerk brother. Her home had been a tiny habitat attached to a sort-of comet that her family had been mining, but she "stole" the ship that had been bequeathed to her brother and her and took off to the nearest world, Erythrion, a "halo" world circling a brown dwarf (giving off heat but not much light). On the way, she discovers an unknown body, either a possible mining claim, or a dead ship to be salvaged.

On Erythrion, Rue finds a dysfunctional family she never knew she had, friends, and learns about the politics of the "halo" worlds, connected by slower-than-light "cyclers" now in decline because the newly discovered FTL ships can go to the "lit" suns and indeed require the more massive stars to allow the FTL to work.

The "lit" suns are under the sway of something Schroeder calls "The Rights Economy". Other reviewers call this "not well explained"and "fuzzily described". I found it quite clear, and an extension of the "Digital Rights Management" concepts coming into play even as we speak...

Anyway, Rue's discovery turns out to be an alien cycler, and of course there are forces trying to take her discovery away, there is a second viewpoint character named Michael Bequith who is a scientist and a Neo-Shinto monk. Under the Rights Economy Neo-Shintoism is illegal. Michael also serves as Rue's love interest. Sort of.

Anyway, Michael and his boss have discovered that alien civilizations who were in many ways similar to humans alway go down in ruins, but there are those among human society trying to form a culture with the prospect of Permanent existance -- Permanence.

The book eventually explains the nature of Rue's alien ship, gives us some neat aliens (and boy they are ALIEN), creates some neat tech, and some villains who just know they are doing what's right.

I read the hard-bound version, but the paperback is now out, and I recommend it highly. Now I have to go find Ventus, his previous novel.

Copyright © 2003 by Jerry Wright