Bewildering Stories

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Dark As Day

by Charles Sheffield

Reviewed by Jerry Wright

Charles Sheffield is gone, and in his passing has left a great hole among those of us who enjoy hard SF. Just recently Dark As Day was released as a paperback, and so I got my hands on a copy. Once again, Dr. Sheffield takes us into the world of "The Puzzle Network" and "the Great Bat".
Three decades have passed since the Great War left mankind on the brink of extinction. The devastated twenty-first century is a period of initial greatness throughout the solar system that turned deadly with weapons of mass destruction seemingly in use everywhere especially the biological ones on earth. Now as we near century's end, humanity seems to have begun recovering especially in the Jupiter-Saturn region, but much more gradually on Earth where the Southern Hemisphere is starting to recuperate.

In 2097, on Ganymede, Alex Ligon, son of a family of trading giants, is finally able to run his predictive programs on the powerful rebuilt "Seine" computer network, a huge quantity of "Quantum Entangled" computers. However, his program predicts humanity will become extinct in less than a hundred years. On the asteroids near Jupiter, SETI researcher Milly Wu believes she has received an alien communication. Rustum "The Great Bat" Battachariya, who collects weapons from the Great War, follows rumors of a doomsday weapon. He consults with Milly and her SETI peers on her findings even as Alex tries to meet with him on a family matter. When Bat learns that the foundling Sebastian contains strange nodules inside his head, he wonders what they are and what damage they can cause.

DARK AS DAY, the sequel to COLD AS ICE and The GANYMEDE CLUB, is extremely complex yet brilliantly entertaining as the story line traverses the solar system. The plot contains cleverly inspired enigmas and even smarter solutions that work at great speed due to the believable ensemble. Though quite dark, humor eases the tale from going too deep into the abyss. Even with a powerful vivid story line, the authentic feel to characters make Charles Sheffield’s cerebral dark futuristic tale a triumph for genre fans.

Some readers were put off by the "talkiness" of the book, which is more cerebral than slam-bang action, but "MegaChirops", aka "the Great Bat" is a fascinating character worthy of the mantle of Nero Wolfe, after whom he is modeled.

Copyright © 2003 by Jerry Wright