VOYA - Kim Carter
Pursuing his dream of flying on one of the starbirds Don Ignacio spoke of, Carlos Mondragon finds himself stowed away on the last of the quantum-wave starships. Also aboard the Project StarSeed ship are these characters: the beautiful gringa bioengineer Dr. Rima Virilli, who sees the mission to colonize another planet as her only hope for herself and her two children; opportunistic Jonas Roak, launch inspector/saboteur, whose planted bomb is discovered before he can leave the ship; StarSeed Mission Director Herman Stecker, who replaces the ship's captain at the last minute as a means of escaping the consequences of his decade's worth of extortion of StarSeed moneys; and Stecker's surly henchman, "mission auditor" Jake Hinch. When the ship lands on an icy planet orbiting a dead star, conflict turns deadly as Stecker and Hinch order the crew to prepare to relaunch the ship, an unlikely prospect at best; Virili and First Officer Glengarth argue for habitation establishment; and evidence mounts of an existing sentient lifeforce. Virili's children come to be major players in the resolution of conflicting agendas and life-threatening circumstances. While there is nothing stellar here in terms of plot, characterization, or thematic exploration, this is an easily read story with plenty of action. Written by established science fiction visionary Williamson, credited by the Oxford English Dictionary as having invented the terms "genetic engineering" and "terraforming," The Black Sun may especially appeal as a high interest/low reading selection. VOYA Codes: 3Q 3P M J S (Readable without serious defects, Will appeal with pushing, Middle School-defined as grades 6 to 8, Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9 and Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
In 1928, at the young age of 20, science fiction grandmaster Williamson (The Humanoids, 1995, etc.) published his first story. Here, in his latest, Project Starseed uses quantum-wave technology to propel starships at the speed of light. Among those aboard the 99th and last starship to leave Earth are stowaway and computer whiz Carlos Mondragon, criminal Jonas Roak, and project director Herman Stecker, one step ahead of his angry creditors. Ship and crew end up thousands of light-years away near a dead sun; they land on the star's sole companion, a dark and frigid planet of rock, ice, and frozen gas that, from the monumental structures that litter the planet, may once have supported intelligent life. Stecker orders the ship readied for another flight, but this the engineers consider impossible; several crew members disappear mysteriously, while young Day Virili insists she's in communication with something alive on the planet. As civil war develops aboard the vessel, Carlos, Day, and a few others head out across the ice in a desperate attempt to contact whatever is trying to get their attention.
Some pieces of the plot-puzzle clearly don't fit, yet this is still one of Williamson's all-time best efforts; for splendid characters, fascinating scenario, and sheer "sense of wonder," it's hard to beat.