Wow! I sure raced through that book. This is
another case of picking up a book on a whim, and then delaying reading it
because I canít figure out why I bought it in the first place. But I
The book was defined by its characters. The premise was there
simply to allow the characters to interact in prescribed situations. I
love character studies such as this one, as long as the situations are not too
unbelievable Ėor dull.
Divided into six sections, only the first five are relevant.
The sixth is an emotional payoff of two chapters, and the epilogue sets
up for a sequel. It often felt like the different sections may have
been written at different times, perhaps to fit a magazine format.
Looking at the front of the book, it turns out I was right. Parts
of the story were published in Analog and others before it was turned into
We are introduced to the premise from the very first page: Earthís
Sun is dying, and nobody knows why. But a young scientist has a potential
solution. Unfortunately, the Empire of a Hundred Worlds is stagnant, and
nobody wants to change to come fast, if at all. And the new plan to save
Earthís Sun will bring scientific research and change unprecedented since the
initial expansion of the Empire.
But the Emperor goes against his advisors, and initiateís the young
womanís program. He moves the Imperial headquarters to Earthís Moon,
and appoints his son as head of the project, and temporary Emperor as he makes
For there is real science in this science fiction. Relativistic
effects must be taken into account. Traveling from the former Imperial
headquarters to Earth takes fifteen years, even though the journey takes
considerably less time from the passengerís point of view.
Communications can only travel at the speed of light, so messages get delayed,
and sometimes arrive late.
Part two introduces us to the new Imperial palace on the Moon.
We learn about all the people who want to stop the project, because of
change, because of cost, because of religion, and jealousy. We even
get to meet an alien race, which is terrified of the technological changes
of the Empire, because they feel threatened. We will meet each of
these, in turn.
The first one comes from the advisors to the Emperor. They
feel that if they can make it cost too much, the Emperor will abandon the
project. There is also a religious group on Earth that thinks the
Sun should die, because that is the natural order of things.
The landing of Acting Emperor Javasí father is very
impressive. The sheer scale of things, and the magnitude of the event is
totally engrossing. Nicholasí conversations concerning the sabotage, and
the attempts on his sonís life were greatly anticipated, and terrifically
written. He then plans his own death, in front of the entire Empire,
before anybody else can kill him first. He uses his nurse as a scapegoat,
which causes the security agents to search for the cult and root most of them
In part three, Javas has still not come to grips with his fatherís
death. He has sent Adela (the projectís initiator) to a renegade
ship-building world to get them back in line, because they have great expertise
with building the kind of ships she will need for her project. In response
to his ex-wifeís pregnancy with an egg fertilized by him before their divorce,
he fertilizes one of Adelaís eggs, and they have a son. This was a shock
to me at first, but since the story takes place so far in the future, I figure
it makes a lot of sense, especially for an Emperor to have an heir.
Eric, their son, meets with Mistress Valtaneís son, his brother, in
the forest on Earth, which results in a humiliating event, from which he is
saved only by Brendan, Emperor Nicholasí former nurse, who has been banished
from the Imperial grounds.
Later, when he is sixteen, he goes to Moon to visit his father.
There, one of the cultists, working with Mistress Valtane, forces them to leave
the Imperial palace to return to Earth. But the shuttle is damaged, and
crashes, and all communications are jammed. Father and son have to wend
their way through the forest, and are both nearly killed before being rescued by
Brendan again. But they are captured once again, this time by Ericís
brother. The following taunts are great, and the plan is exposed.
Eric is barely able to kill his brother, and they are saved.
Part four takes us away from Earth, to the renegade planet. Adela uses her influence to bring the planet back in line. The planet
is divided by a huge fault, and the two lands on either side are divided
in ideology as well. It takes the threat of military action and a
quarantine to make them realize they are better off in the Empire than
outside of it. This part was well done, but was not quite as interesting
as the previous parts.
When Adela gets back into the solar system, a lot has changed.
For her, it has been less than a year, but forty years have passed in realtime.
Instantaneous communication has been developed. The first test on
her plan is in the process of being performed. But her ship is not
equipped with the new communications systems, so she still has to wait
weeks at a time for messages.
The problem here lies in the equations, which made assumptions
about future technology. Now that the technology has been developed,
her equations are flawed. They must be altered. But the chief
academic wants the test to fail, so that the project can be abandoned.
He recommends going ahead with the test, even though everybody knows it
The alien Sarpan race has helped develop some of the equipment
to be used in the tests, which includes shielding for the singularities
that will transfer solar material from one star to the Sun. When
the test fails, one of their ships gets pulled through the singularity,
effectively discovering faster than light travel. So, while the test
failed, progress has been quickened even more. The chief academic
realizes that it is inevitable.
So Adela finally gets to meet Eric in the last part. They meet,
and fall silent, because they donít even know each other, not really.
But they have eight years together before she goes into cryogenic sleep, to wake
up two hundred years later, when it is expected that her project will be ready
to save the Sun.
I was wondering about the ending. It seemed like it could be the
end of the story, because there was nothing left to do except run the final
test, which, according to all the research, would be less than exciting.
Everything was accomplished, so we could be at peace. But then Mistress Valtane arrives, and tells Adela,
just before she leaves for cryogenic sleep, that she plans to depose Eric, and
use another of her fertilized eggs to take the throne. That smells setup
for a sequel to me.
I couldnít find one, for the longest time, but the sequel is called
To Fear the Light, and it is out of print in
most stores. Even if I had not found it in the library, to discover the end
of the story, I think I could be satisfied with the way things
went. Without the intrusion of Valtane, the story could have been
satisfactorily concluded at the end of this book, knowing that all opposition
had been quelled, either by time, death, or by being exposed.