jueves, 22 de octubre de 2015

Children of the Comet, by Donald Moffitt


(Disclaimer: English is my second language, so I want to apologize in advance for there may be mistakes in the text below. If you find any, please let me know so that I can correct it. I'd really appreciate it. Thanks.)

Review Soundtrack: I suggest reading this review while listening to Traversing the Oort Cloud, by Wide Eyes (Spotify, YouTube)

The first time I heard about Donald Moffitt was four years ago, when someone mentioned in an Spanish online forum that in one of his novels there was a gigantic spaceship that ate Jupiter. I became utterly intrigued by the idea, and I quickly discovered that the book was titled The Jupiter Theft and instantly added it to my wishlist. Some time later, I bought the ebook but, for different reasons, I haven't found the time to read it yet. Thus, when I learned that Open Road was going to publish Children of the Comet, a new, posthumous novel by Moffit, I thought that it was a perfect chance to get acquainted with his work. It turned out to be an excellent decision.

Children of the Comet is a hard science fiction novel that packs, in little more than 300 pages, almost everything that I love about the genre: mindblowing ideas, wild speculation and tons and tons of sense of wonder. In this book, you will about giant trees growing on the comets of the Oort cloud, animals adapted to life in the vacuum of space  and spaceships traveling at nearly the space of light among many other amazing elements.

It is true that not all the ideas used by Moffitt are exactly new. The main inspiration of Children of the Comet, as acknowledged many times throughout the text, is Freeman Dyson's essay The World, the Flesh and the Devil (based, in turn, on J.D. Bernal's book of the same title). In addition, while reading the novel it is impossible not to feel echoes of classic works such as The Integral Trees, by Larry Niven, or Tau Zero, by Poul Anderson, or, to Spanish readers, of the saga of Akasa Puspa, by Javier Redal and Juan Miguel Aguilera, and "El bosque de hielo", again by Aguilera. There also thematic coincidences with more modern novels such as Dark Eden, by Chris Beckett, or Children of Time, by Adrian Tchaikovsky.

Moffitt manages to combine all these concepts to deliver an interesting story, with excellent pace and a definite classic SF feel to it. There is even some space for a little adventure (probably the part that I cared less for) and some social critic, mainly regarding gender roles that in the book are elegantly subverted through Ning, an amazing female protagonist and, hands down, my favorite character in the novel.

Children of the Comet has also some of flaws that could be annoying to some readers. As per usual in many hard SF works, there are abundant infodumps and the author relies heavily on the dialog to reveal important information. Also, there are some coincidences that are central to the plot and that given the spans of time and space involved in the story can only be considered as practically impossible.

But even while I was very conscious of these problems, I couldn't help enjoying Children of the Comet very much. It is the kind of book that you can only find if you read science fiction, one of the reasons I completely adore this genre. I recommend it highly, especially to hard-core fans of hard SF. After reading this novel, I can only say that now I'm even more looking forward to reading The Jupiter Theft and all the other novels written by Donald Moffitt.

(You can also read this review in Spanish/También puedes leer esta reseña en español)        

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