STRANGE ATTRACTORSA novel by Jeffrey A. Carver
(1994, TOR Books)
The Chaos Chronicles, book 2
Abandoned on a huge multi-environment space station, Bandicut teams up with aliens who have also been manipulated to discover the whereabouts of a demon before it destroys the station.
-- First reading (ebook)
This book was a whirlwind of science-fiction concepts, where the main character was plunged right in, and the reader went with him. The explanations that were offered were speculations by the main character, if he even managed to think about what he saw at all, and that was pretty cool -the author didn't stop moving us around enough to allow us enough time to think about it, either. It was neat to be placed into that kind of situation, and just wonder at everything.Spoiler review:
This book picks up immediately where Neptune Crossing left off, with John Bandicut, missing Charlie in his head, and the two robots Copernicus and Napoleon, approaching a massive space station beyond the edge of the galaxy.
Obviously, they enter, and then they are sent somewhere, to a world-ship that may or may not be related to the station they originally approached. The aliens here, presumably the masters of the station, have some awesome technology, akin to magic to Bandicut and the readers, that allow them to move him instantaneously and even give a semi-consciousness to the robots. And yes, Charlie does wake up new-born inside Bandicut's head.
The first part of the story allows John to meet an alien Ik, who saves him from sand and waves that is trying to kill him. John then tags along on Ik's mission, which was to search out information about the Boojum, a sentient something that is wreaking havoc all along the station, and possibly ready to destroy it. John and Ik both have the translator-stones that allow them to speak with each other and other aliens on the station, as well as powers to manipulate the doorways and portals in this place. Ik is searching for another alien-friend, Li-Jared, who also has translator-stones.
In their search for Li-Jared, Ik and John pass through a few different environments, from long grasslands, a desert canyon where they are aided by meerkat-like creatures, and an alien city that seems to have been partially abandoned. Here the meet the neat Shadow-people, beings like Charlie (the quarx) who live in n-dimensional space, but who maintain some critical areas of the station, though they don't take refuge inside peoples' heads like Charlie.
With new-Charlie's help, John is able to correct a critical overload the boojum has caused, earning he shadow-people's everlasting gratitude. These creatures upgrade the two robots, one of whom had been damaged, and who have now become paranoid of each other, thinking they have been compromised by the boojum.
The race through the incomplete star-spanner down to the park, where they grab a hotel room and John goes out to get a message from the now-missing Copernicus was well-written. All through the book, things happen and John moves along for the ride, always wishing he was in control, but never managing to do it. The only thing he does for himself is contact an alien woman who reminds him of Julie, his lover from the last book. By the end of the book, she has joined them, and saved his life.
The boojum finds John everywhere he goes, every time he connects to the neural link that passes for an information network on this station. Sometimes he is saved by Charlie, sometimes by the fugue that used to take his mind back in Neptune Crossing. When they make it to the Ice Caverns, which is where they expected to find information that could take them back home, the boojum is there waiting for him. That also turns out to be the location of the boojum's lair, which seems way too coincidental. Here, the boojum captures John's mind and destroys Charlie (at least temporarily, again), but John is rescued by the sudden appearance of the shadow-people, and the voice of the alien woman, Antares. Her voice leads him back to his body, and the shadow-people destroy the ice caverns, trapping the boojum and destroying it for good.
The things I liked best about this book are almost the same as what I had trouble with. The book was simple, and the main characters were just swept away by events, never getting to determine what would happen next. Things were moving too fast for them to do more than react (and barely even that). But it was really cool to be swept into the different environments, especially since the author gives very detailed descriptions of whatever Bandicut is experiencing -and even more so since nobody seems to know what is going on. The concepts were very advanced, and the author often didn't even try to explain them, just allowing us to experience it along with John. It was truly a whirlwind, and fun, too.
As with Neptune Crossing, this book ends on a cliff-hanger, as John, Ik, Li-Jared, Antares and the two robots make their way through a portal to a star-spanner, and to a planet that appears to have a sub-oceanic city. But Julie has also discovered the alien artefact on Neptune, and has now been given translator-stones. Why, and how will this impact John, who might even have a relationship with Antares soon?
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