THE SHATTERED SPHERE
Now I would be among the first to admit that based on the book jacket this book seems really (really) far-fetched but hey – that’s what good Science Fiction is, isn’t it? By taking our studies of gravitics and Particle Physics into a new direction Roger MacBride Allen has written a believable and enjoyable piece of fiction.
The villains of the piece – the Charonians – are actually a logical extension of both of these sciences (along with a healthy dose of Chemistry and Biology to round it all out) and while they are powerful there is nothing that they can do that we (humanity in that time-line) cannot – it is simply a matter of scale. The Charonians are big and powerful and have been utilizing the same technology for millennia.
The uber-villain though – the Adversary … is definitely NOT someone you’d want to meet on a dark night! Living in a completely different universe to ours, they don’t even know that we exist and the Charonians themselves are simply a light snack!
Humanities Warriors –
The main human characters in this book are:
- Dr. Larry O’Shawnessy Chao (Larry Chao) – Formerly a youthful and very junior researcher at the Gravitics Research Institute, Pluto. Chao accidently activated the huge Charonian being, the Lunar Wheel, and thus inadvertently set in motion the events leading to the Abduction.
- Sianna Colette – A young woman, orphaned as a teenager by the pulsequakes of the Abduction. Sianna is a graduate student working at the Multisystem Research Institute (MRI) in New York.
- Lucian Dreyfuss – Once a technician at the Moon‘s Orbital Traffic Control Center, he was captured by the Charonians in the Rabbit Hole. He is presumed dead.
- Wally Sturgis – An expert in computer modelling. Wally is employed at the Multisystem Research Institute (MRI) in New York.
The Story – so far
The story picks up right from where The Ring of Charon concluded and while you do not need to read that book to enjoy this one – it is recommended simply so that you are familiar with the characters and what drives and motivates them. I’ve listed a couple of the key (to me anyways) characters in this book, but as you can well imagine there are many more who make an impact to the story and the people in that story.
As mentioned earlier in The Ring of Charon (the first book), a gravitational control experiment on Pluto conducted by Larry Chao wakes up alien machinery concealed within the moon which steals the Earth through an artificial black hole. In addition to the theft of the moon, the core planets including Jupiter are invaded by Charonians disguised in the asteroid belts of the Solar System. These invaders start dismantling the planets and it is only through the efforts of Dr. Chao and his team that they are able to send a signal to all the assorted invaders shutting them down. Unfortunately this same signal also shuts down the Ring contained within the Moon meaning that they have lost connection to the Multisystem where the Earth has been stolen to.
What happens next?
In the Shattered Sphere – the remnants of humanity in the Solar system are still trying to find a way to reach Earth. While they might be “safe” a message sent from the multisystem prior to their dissolving the link shows that there is something that the Charonians are afraid of. Something that has destroyed another multisystem in the past and could be coming to destroy the Earth also.
Not knowing what did and even what time-frame they have to work with limits their options in addition to which they don’t know where to even find Earth. By cutting the link, their Pluto-point wormhole has no real sync with the Moon-point one and they could be searching for millenia to find it.
On Earth, the Terra Nova is trapped in Space not able to get back to Earth due to the orbiting Core’s (huge chunks of rock (asteroids) that are able to navigate with the aid of gravitics. The Core’s are designed to protect planets in the multisystem from space based impacts by the simple expedient of ramming the offending article and pulverizing it!) and of the resupply ships that Earth sends to the Terra Nova and the NaPurHab (explained to the right) only 30% or so make it through.
The Naked Purples
The Naked Purples formed as a movement to protest everything and nothing. In a nutshell their philosophy is to strip down, paint themselves purple and walk. The simple act of doing this makes them stand out from the crowd and ensures that they are noticed.
The Naked Purple Habitat, owned and operated by the radical Naked Purple social movement, was brought along in the Big Jump and managed to survive the transition by orbiting around the Moonpoint black hole.
Against their own philosophy, the residents of the habitat cooperated with the people of Earth, relaying messages through the Saint Anthony to the Solar System before the probe’s final destruction by a CORE.
Finding your way Home
On the moon Larry and others discover that Lucian Dreyfuss who they thought long dead has actually been in suspended animation. As they discuss, it seems that with the Charonians blending of biology and technology death itself is not really a state anymore, and the two main factors are whether something is “on” or “off.”
Once Larry is able to “jack” in to the connection with Lucian, they are able to learn additional information with regards to the enemy that the Charonians fear – called the Adversary. This entity/life-form grew and developed on super dense neutron stars and to it normal space is the weirdness. Normality for it is wormholes and when the Adversaries and Charonian’s wormhole networks intersected in the distant past, the Adversary was able to decimate the Charonian’s until they learned how to fight back and hide. Larry also learns that the Adversary has been “woken” up and is heading towards the multisystem holding the Earth. One other piece of good news? The way in which Charonians fight back is by throwing a planet at the Adversary and guess which planet is the most likely one … you got it! Earth.
On the Earth itself they are trying to find out where the “brain” that is controlling the multisystem resides. The Terra Nova has sent one stealth ship already to a Core to try and see if they could figure out how to control it, but this was destroyed fairly quickly and they were basically now stuck in space. Thanks to Sianna Collete and Wally though they are able to postulate that the brain of the multisystem is not actually the huge Dyson sphere at the heart of the system but rather the small – moon like – object circling it.
They determine that if the process had continued in a similar fashion in our solar system our moon would have become a new brain for another multisystem. They further postulate that based on the imagery they are able to intercept the Dyson sphere itself contains a “white hole” which is how the Charonians are able to generate the gravitational abilities that they have demonstrated. In addition, it is actually this white hole star that the Adversary “eats” when it attacks the Charonians.
Let the Games Begin
Now while the first half (if not 3 quarters) of the book is taken up in discovery and research and science in general, in the latter half of the book things really kick up a notch as in addition to the Core’s currently guarding the Earth the Sphere sends other smaller units – SCore’s to reinforce them due to the imminent attack of the Adversary.
Sianna and Wally end up on the NaPurHab and due to its location in a degrading orbit around the Moonpoint ring, they and the NaPurHab fall through the wormhole to the location of the previous sphere – the one that had sent the message in the first place. A dead and lifeless location. However this travel itself sends a reverberation that the remainder of humanity in the Solar System are able to track and using this information they are able to pinpoint the correct frequency for the Pluto Ring. When the Terra Nova joins the NaPurHab on the other side of the wormhole, this is just further clarification about the arrival point and Larry Chao is able to join them by navigating through the Pluto Ring.
In the dead system however, the Adversary is already on its way to the wormhole through which the Terra Nova and the NaPurHab just arrived. Once it gets through here it will barrel its way through and destroy the Sphere and the multisystem containing Earth itself.
While the SCore’s continue to pummel the Adversary with no effect whatsoever, Sianna again comes up with a great idea to hopefully destroy it.
Wally, Larry and Sianna land on the now dead Ring but are able to restart enough of its controls so that they are able to take control of the rings controlling the wormholes. As the Adversary enters the wormhole leading back to Earth, they redirect it to another ring in the sequence – just like a huge particle accelerator – and send the Adversary along this new path. Once it reaches an element of the ring that has been destroyed, the Adversary is released in an uncontrolled manner and all of its mass is converted into energy in a violent explosion!
Where to now?
While the Adversary is destroyed (here) – it is actually just one of many and with its death the rest of the units realized that something now exists that can kill them.
Wally has sent a message back through the network to the Sphere containing Earth and has “influenced it” in such a way as to have it back off on its Core’s thereby opening the way to space for Earth again and hopefully a way to perhaps even colonize some of the other planets in the multisystem … the caveat of course being that these planets exist and are all located here for the simple reason that the Charonians conduct feeding/breeding binges every so often completely destroying all life on a planet so selected.
Sianna and Larry discuss whether or not they should now relocate Earth back to the Solar System or leave it here as part of the multisystem.
While a big part of the story is definitely done and these two books do stand on their own with regards to the series, there is definitely room to further expand this universe and perhaps allow humanity to better understand and develop some sort of bond with the Charonians, especially as now the Adversary knows that it can be killed which has never previously happened.