The Web of Titan (Galahad Series #2)

( 13 )

Overview

When the tail of the comet Bhaktul flicks through the Earth’s atmosphere, deadly particles are left in its wake, and mankind is confronted with a virus that devastates the adult population. A renowned scientist proposes a bold plan: to build a ship that will carry a crew of 251 teenagers to a home in a distant solar system. Two years later, Galahad and its crew is launched. If their mission fails, it will be the end of the human race…

After triumphing over a saboteur bent on ...

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Overview

When the tail of the comet Bhaktul flicks through the Earth’s atmosphere, deadly particles are left in its wake, and mankind is confronted with a virus that devastates the adult population. A renowned scientist proposes a bold plan: to build a ship that will carry a crew of 251 teenagers to a home in a distant solar system. Two years later, Galahad and its crew is launched. If their mission fails, it will be the end of the human race…

After triumphing over a saboteur bent on destroying Galahad, Triana and her Council are eager to avoid any further complications. But as Galahad swings around the ringed planet Saturn, they encounter a mysterious metal pod orbiting the moon of Titan. The teens prepare to bring the pod and its contents aboard, only to be faced with a another crisis: an illness that is beyond their medical experience. Dozens of crew members fall into a comatose state, only to awaken with strangely glowing eyes. To make matters worse, the systems of Galahad begin to fail. With time running out, can Triana and her shipmates escape the Web of Titan?

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780765360786
  • Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
  • Publication date: 6/29/2010
  • Series: Galahad Series , #2
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 255
  • Sales rank: 534,428
  • Age range: 13 - 18 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Dom Testa

DOM TESTA, of Denver, Colorado, has been a radio show host since 1977, and currently is a co-host of the popular “Dom and Jane Show” on Mix 100 in Denver. A strong advocate of literacy programs for children, he regularly visits Colorado schools. Dom began the Big Brain Club to encourage students to overcome the peer pressure that often prevents them from achieving their true potential.

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Read an Excerpt

The Web of Titan

A Galahad Book
By Testa, Dom

Tor Teen

Copyright © 2010 Testa, Dom
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780765360786

1

The storm raged quietly along the surface, a swirl of colors colliding, mixing, weaving. Layers of gas clouds tumbled across one another, their brilliant shades of red and purple highlighted by short bursts of lightning. Winds galloped along at more than a thousand miles per hour, stirring the atmosphere and keeping the roiling chaos churning in much the same way it had for billions of years.

Above it all drifted the jeweled rings, chunks of ice and dust that varied in size between grains of sand and ten-story buildings. Their dense orbits stretched out hundreds of thousands of miles, occasionally sparkling like a crown in the dim sunlight while casting a thin, dark shadow across the face of the storms. The tightly packed debris in the rings rolled along, nudging and shoving, forever keeping watch over the unruly gas giant below.

Saturn toiled along.

Scattered near and far, its squadron of moons maintained their dutiful orbits, subjects kneeling before the majesty of the king, tossed about by the immense gravitational tugs and seared by the overwhelming inferno of radiation. Several dozen of these minor bodies drifted near Saturn’s dazzling rings, themselves a product of an earlier moon that had been shattered by a rogue asteroid or comet, the pieces now trapped in a mindless dance that circled the giant planet.

Keeping a respectful distance, and shrouded in a cloak of dense atmosphere, the largest of these moons obediently tracked through the vacuum of space, cutting a path that kept it clear of the rings. Dwarfed by the Herculean planet, it still laid claim to its own cloud system and weather patterns. Rather than water, its rivers and oceans were pools of liquid methane, carving channels and shorelines that dotted the surface, a surface impossible to see through the screen of haze and fog. An eerie orange glow masked the surface, bathing it in a dull light that made the large moon seem almost alive, breathing.

Titan.

As it circled Saturn, a route that took it a little more than two weeks to complete, Titan had its own companion in space. Right now, in an artificial orbit, a metallic pod shot around Titan, spinning slowly as it navigated, the light from Saturn occasionally glancing off its sides, mixing with the orange tint of the moon to form a ghostly shade. The smooth steel of the pod was uniform except for two small windows on one end, and exhaust ports on the other. During its slow, deliberate trek around the moon, block lettering could be made out on one side, along with small emblems of flags that lined up under a window. Inside it was dark, quiet, waiting.

It would not be quiet, nor waiting, much longer.

Lita Marques sat before the mirror in her room. She deftly tied the red ribbon into a knot, pulling her dark hair into a pony-tail and lifting it off her shoulders. She eyed the end result with a neutral glance, then gazed past her own reflection to the smiling girl who sat cross-legged on the end of Lita’s bed. “All right, Channy, what’s so funny?�

Galahad’s Activities/Nutrition Director, clad in her usual bright yellow shorts and T-shirt that made a startling contrast against her chocolate-toned skin, replaced her grin with an expression of innocence. “Funny? Oh, nothing funny.� She uncrossed her legs and scooted them over the edge of the bed. “Just wondering why you bother to make yourself look so pretty every day and then refuse to let me set you up with someone.�

Lita’s eyes rolled. “Why did I bother to ask?� She made one final appraisal in the mirror, then turned to face Channy Oakland. “I appreciate your intentions, Miss Social Butterfly, but I’m perfectly capable of meeting a boy on my own.�

Channy raised one eyebrow. “Uh-huh. And quite a great job you’ve done in that area, too. We’ve been away from Earth for, what, four months now? Not counting your lunches with Ruben Chavez, you’ve been out with. . . . hmm, a whopping total of zero boys.� She leaned forward and picked a piece of fuzz off Lita’s shirt. “And we won’t count Ruben. You only talk with him because he’s from Mexico, like you.�

“Hey, I like Ruben. He’s one of the nicest guys on the ship.�

“Of course he is. But you know darned well what I’m talking about, and it’s not chatting over an energy block in the cafeteria.�

Lita shook her head. “Channy, do you think it would be possible for you to go two days without trying to play matchmaker? When I’m ready to see someone, I will. Besides,� she added, “I haven’t seen you exactly setting the shipboard romance gauge any higher.�

“That’s because I’m still in advance scouting mode right now,� Channy said, winking. “I’m compiling data, see? Give me another few weeks and I’ll set the hook.�

“Right,� Lita said. “Compiling data. I like that.� She smiled at the Brit, then stood up and walked over to the built-in dresser and rummaged for a favorite bracelet. The dorm rooms on Galahad were relatively small but comfortable. Each crew member shared space with a roommate, but the work schedules were usually staggered to the point that each person was able to have time to themselves, a valuable commodity on a ship loaded with 251 passengers. Lita, one of Galahad’s five Council members, was responsible for overseeing the ship’s Clinic, or Sick House, as it was lovingly referred to by the crew. Her roommate, an outgoing fifteen-year-old from India, was currently at work in the Engineering section. Channy had stopped by to accompany Lita to dinner.

Finding the accessory she wanted, Lita slipped it over her wrist and turned back to face Channy. “Let me ask you something,� she said. “Are you as curious about our upcoming appointment at Titan as you are about my love life?�

Channy shrugged. “Of course. I’m just not sure exactly what we’re doing. I asked Gap about this . . . this pod thing we’re supposed to pick up, but he was pretty busy at the time and never really explained it to me. And good luck getting a straight answer from Roc about anything.�

This brought a laugh to Lita’s lips. “Oh, he’ll shoot straight with you eventually. What exactly do you want to know?�

“Well,� Channy said, “if this pod is supposed to have been launched by the scientists on the research station orbiting Titan, how come we haven’t heard from them? Nobody seems to be saying much about that.�

“Yeah, it’s a little creepy,� Lita agreed. “Thirty scientists and engineers, all working for a couple of years on a lonely outpost near Saturn, and suddenly nobody can get in touch with them.� She walked over to the desk across the room and called out to the computer. “Roc?�

“Hello, Lita,� came the very human-sounding reply. “What’s on your mind?�

Lita couldn’t hear the computer’s voice without seeing the short, lovable genius who had programmed the machine. Roy Orzini, one of the champions of the Galahad project, had been responsible for outfitting the ship with a computer capable of controlling the life-support systems, lights, gravity, and other crucial functions of the spacecraft. As a bonus he instilled an actual personality into the thing; his personality, it turned out, for the talking computer soon demonstrated the same wit and sarcasm as his creator. Roy’s Computer was soon shortened to RoyCo, and eventually to Roc. He was indispensable to the five Council members, almost an older brother along for the ride.

“I’m trying to explain to Channy about the pod we’re picking up pretty soon,� Lita said. “About the research station that has gone silent. But I’m not sure I really know exactly what it’s all about.�

Roc remained silent a moment, then said, “Well, if you love mysteries, you should really love this, because it’s not just one thriller, but two: the disappearance of the research crew, and this metal pod we’re supposed to snatch out of space.�

“What’s the story on the scientists?� Lita said, sitting down at the desk. “Who are these people anyway?�

“A combination of biologists, medical researchers, engineers, and technicians,â€? said the computer. “Maybe not the group voted ‘Most Likely to Party in Space,’ but all brilliant in their fields. The research station is a small space station in orbit around Titan, the largest moon of Saturn, and one of the most important bodies in the solar system.â€?

“Why?� Channy asked. “What makes Titan so special?�

“Life,� Roc said. “Or, at least one of the best chances at finding it off the planet Earth. Titan, you see, has an atmosphere, and oceans.�

“Oceans?� Channy said. “You’re kidding.�

“Not the kind you’d want to surf in, my friend,� Roc said. “These are oceans of liquid methane. But bubbling around in that poisonous soup are a lot of the building blocks that eventually led to life on Earth billions of years ago. This research station has been studying Titan for several years.�

Lita picked up a stylus pen from the desk and tapped her cheek with it while she listened to Roc. Now she paused and said, “What have they found?�

“That’s just it,â€? said the computer voice. “All of their reports have been labeled ‘Classified,’ and ‘Top Secret.’ Nobody knows what they’ve found. But apparently, at about the same time Galahad launched, something happened around Titan, and all contact with the scientists was lost. The last message was pretty garbled, didn’t make a lot of sense. But it mentioned a small pod that was jettisoned into Titan’s orbit, waiting.â€?

“Waiting for what?� Channy said.

“Us.�

Excerpted from The Web of Titan by Dom Testa.
Copyright © 2010 by Dom Testa.
Published in 2010 by A Tom Doherty Associates Book.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.



Continues...

Excerpted from The Web of Titan by Testa, Dom Copyright © 2010 by Testa, Dom. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Reading Group Guide

The Science Behind Galahad

Volume 1: Artificial Intelligence

Hi. Dom Testa here. You’ve got your eyes trained on the first entry in a brand new series of articles that I’ll be writing, and I’m excited about it.

You see, as I’ve spent the past few years writing the Galahad book series—which is about the ongoing adventures of 251 teenagers who live aboard a spaceship destined for another world –I’ve found myself increasingly interested in the science that is at the heart of what is technically science fiction. I wonder: How does artificial gravity work? What is the technology that allows Gap Lee to be such a good Airboarder? How does NASA make use of solar sails in space travel, and what really happens when the Earth passes through the tail of a comet? And when I deliver presentations at schools or talk with fans out on the road, I’ve found that they often wonder the very same things.

So, in an effort to satisfy my curiosity and yours, I’ve decided to explore some of those topics in greater detail. With each volume I’ll tackle a scientific phenomenon of some sort and take it apart, bit by bit, until we all understand it a little better. It’s the science behind the Galahad series, and I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that it’s going to be a whole lot of fun. Let’s dive right in, shall we? First up: Artificial Intelligence.

“Open the Pod Bay Doors, HAL”

The term ‘Artificial Intelligence’, or ‘AI’ for short, dates way back to 1956, and the man who has long been credited with dreaming up that nifty little phrase is a computer scientist named John McCarthy –still alive and kicking as I write these words, by the way. Good for him. Anyway, the most basic technical definition that I’ve found is this:

Artificial Intelligence

‐noun; the capacity of a computer to perform operations analogous to learning and decision‐making in humans

Or to boil it down even further: computers who think and reason like humans. Hmmm.

The first time that I remember being introduced to the concept of AI was in Stanley Kubrick’s brilliant movie, and the Arthur C. Clarke book that accompanied it, 2001: A Space Odyssey. It was produced so long ago (1968) that the year 2001 must have seemed impossibly far away. In 2001, a spaceship sent to investigate one of Jupiter’s moons is controlled by the HAL 9000 (known simply as ‘HAL’), a computer that talks and thinks and maintains all of the ships vital functions. Incidentally, four decades later a much cooler computer would appear aboard a much cooler ship and serve much the same purpose –but more on that later.

2001 wasn’t the first time someone had dreamed up this idea of a sentient computer – in fact, Clarke himself had been writing stories about such things since the 1940s – but it was the first time that the idea showed up on my radar, and I’ll bet I’m not alone. That movie left an indelible impression on generations of filmgoers as HAL developed an agenda of his own and then executed it, all the while explaining his actions in a very calm, very creepy monotone voice.

Also in the late 1960s, the television show Lost in Space featured a robot –aptly named ‘Robot’ –that displayed its own form of artificial intelligence (and which also contributed the phrase, “Danger, Will Robinson!” to pop culture history). It was the very definition of cheesy TV, but I loved that show. Later, in the 1980s, the film Blade Runner–also based on a famous science fiction story, this time by eccentric author Phillip K. Dick –featured cyborgs that had gotten out of control and gone on a killing spree. It was a blockbuster hit with big movie stars and dazzling special effects that became something of a cult favorite over the years. And to some degree, there are lots of books and movies with similar themes dotting our cultural landscape. The Terminator and Star Wars franchises both feature a heavy dose of out‐of‐control androids or cyborgs, as does The Matrix trilogy. Some even argue that Frankenstein, written in 1818, deals with issues of Artificial intelligence in its story of a monster created from spare parts in a madman’s laboratory. But is that all there is to the idea of Artificial Intelligence? Fictional computers run amok and bent on overtaking their human counterparts?

Hardly. Fact is, the real world of AI is just as spectacular –but much less menacing.

A (Very) Short History Lesson

Once the field of Artificial Intelligence began to take shape, it wasn’t long before scientists from all over the world were raising the bar –and raising the stakes. The U.S. Department of Defense, which oversees the military, directed millions of dollars toward funding research, and other countries followed suit. Optimism ran high that within the span of a few decades, machines would possess the ability to cognitively perform many of the same tasks that humans do, and perhaps more. The train of innovation charged ahead…

…right into a brick wall. By the 1970s, the progress that was being made in the field of AI was not up to par with the lofty expectations that had been set for it, and some countries, including the United States, cut most of their funding for AI‐related projects. This became known as the first (but not the last) ‘AI Winter,’ where the money dried up and the momentum largely stalled. This would happen again in the late ‘80s, but new developments once again reenergized the world’s imagination and the train started moving again.

It seems there are just too many possibilities for the field of Artificial Intelligence to stay buried for long… especially in light of the technological revolution that has taken place in the first part of the 21st century. In a world of satellites and digitization and quantum physics and nanotechnology, we’re bound to explore the boundaries of computer capabilities.

Though we may not realize it, Artificial Intelligence does exist in today’s world in various forms. We encounter it in a number of ways, some of which we don’t even notice. But one of the most high‐profile displays of AI technology in recent memory actually turned up in a distinctly old‐world venue: the game of chess.

Beginning in 1989, Russian chess champion Garry Kasparov engaged in a series of matches against chess‐playing computers designed by IBM. Perhaps the most famous match took place in 1997, when Kasparov was defeated by a computer called Deep Blue in a controversial six‐game match. Kasparov would later avenge the loss in a series of rematches, but the lesson was clear: Deep Blue and the machines that followed in its footsteps clearly demonstrated an advanced capacity for creative and critical thought –something which many doubters had long claimed was impossible.

The years since Deep Blue’s emergence have brought other major developments in the field of Artificial Intelligence. To one degree or another, computers now have the ability to do everything from diagnosing serious medical conditions to composing original music(both pop and classical, in case you were wondering). More often than we realize, a branch of AI is responsible for the backbone of some new technology that quickly becomes a fixture in our everyday lives. Take a quick look at all the gadgets in your home. I’ll bet you can find at least a few that rely on AI, right?

Then there are the robots.

Ah yes, the robots. Every so often I will come across a news story that shows video of a robot designed by a brilliant team of scientists in some far‐away lab –Stanford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have each made great strides here in the U.S., but there are many similar projects going on overseas, particularly in Asia –and I always shake my head in awe and admiration. These robots can follow commands but, so far, have trouble thinking on their own. That’s because no one has quite cracked the code for how to get them to process thoughts beyond the formal logic of, say, a Google search or a chess match. In those instances, a computer can sift through web sites or analyze probability based on previous chess moves, and it does it quite well. Far better than humans, in fact. But what computers still cannot do is connect that formal logic to abstract concepts, which is why, if a robot were to beat you in chess, it may be able to shake your hand afterward, but it would not be able to adjust if you wanted to high‐five instead –not without being programmed to do so –nor would it understand the reason or the meaning behind your gesture.

Of course this doesn’t mean that there is not a great deal of practical use for artificial intelligence today. Indeed, some form of AI is already being used for everything from building cars to programming your TV. And more importantly, there is nearly constant daily progress. When you stop and think about it, we’ve come an awfully long way in a very, very short amount of time. I wonder what tomorrow might bring.

Looking Ahead

It is true that many people fear what the future holds. (It’s also true that people fear robots who look too much like real people –it’s a lot like the way people fear clowns. Excuse me while I shiver away the goose bumps that suddenly appeared on my arms and neck.) Ever since John McCarthy and his peers first coined the phrase ‘Artificial Intelligence’ there have been those who oppose its development on the grounds that we, as humans, may be getting in over our heads. That we may one day create a computer that we will not be able to control. That we are destined to find ourselves the servants instead of the masters. And while it is impossible to say whether that eventuality comes to pass or not, what has become clear is that when it comes to Artificial Intelligence, the sky really is the limit. Which is why, when it came time for me to send 251 of the brightest teenagers from all over the world into space in order to save mankind, the person I put at the center of their experience wasn’t really a person at all.

The narrator of the Galahad series, and the one who maintains many of the ship’s vital functions, is a thinking, talking computer called Roc. Roc was designed in the image of his creator, Roy Orzini, but he also flashes a personality that is very much his own. He’s sarcastic and wise, and he has a sense of humor, too. He develops relationships with crew members that go beyond the formal, professional capacity that you’d expect. Triana Martell is the Council Leader of Galahad, and there’s no question that she is the star of the show. Other characters come and go, and I’ve found when I visit with fans of the book series, they each have their own favorite character.

But if those characters are the pieces that make up the Galahad series, then Roc is the glue that holds those pieces together. He’s responsible for so much of the technical aspects of their journey –everything from regulating the oxygen, to maintaining the radiation shield, to preventing a catastrophic collision with an asteroid –but he also uses his advanced powers of deduction on a personal level. He’s a confidant, a mentor, a friend. He’s a computer who fits the very definition of Artificial Intelligence, and then, when you least expect it, he is so much more.

Will science ever take that next leap in the development of computers? Might our children one day have a best friend who was designed and constructed in a warehouse somewhere? Or, as some claim, is there an essential part of the human experience that can never be replicated?

I don’t know the answers to those questions any more than you do, but I’ll tell you this: like just about everything else in the world of science, I can’t wait to find out.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 1, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    The Web of Titan

    Dom Testa has once again created a story that leaves us wanting more. The second book in the Gallahad series kept me on the edge of my seat as much as the first one. Nothing will every go completely right in life. Because of the problems he has created for his characters the story is very believable. The relationships that are developing between the teens on the ship are right on target as well. I say this because I teach kids around this age. I kept trying to problem solve for the teens as I read the book. I am glad that they are a lot smarter than I am in the area of science. One thing I absolutely love about these books is the Reader's Guides at the end of each book. It is every teacher's dream to have critical thinking questions that require the student to do more than just read and regurgitate a few multiple choice answers. The fun thing is I find myself doing the work. I always want to set a good example for my students. I will have my work in a notebook as an example for students. If I had one wish, I would want to have ROC, the computer who helps run the ship as a partner in my classroom. His humor is so human like. Of course if you don't know what I am talking about then you need to read the books. The research that has gone into these books make it one of my favorite series. I have already pre-ordered the next book in the series "The Cassini Code", due out in November. I am excited to get back to school to recommend this book to my students.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 2, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    strong young adult science fiction thriller

    The tail of the comet Bhaktul flew inside the Earth's atmosphere. This quickly proved not a close miss though contact did not occur; the tail left a virus behind that killed anyone over eighteen and killed anyone who turned eighteen in the future. The human species is heading to extinction. To save the human species, a ship was constructed to take two hundred and fifty-one of the planet's top teens less than sixteen to colonize a planet in a distant solar system. Two years later the Galahad leaves with a sabotaging stowaway on board (see The Comet's Curse).

    When the Galahad reaches the Saturn moon of Titan, they pick up a metal pod. The teen crew has no idea what it is or why it was so important that they pick it up. They retrieve the pod, which contains two chambers; the adult compartment is empty while the smaller one holds a cat. At the same they pick up the object, several crew members become extremely ill and the ion drive suddenly accelerates to a point that if it does not stop, the Galahad will explode. Desperate ship commander Triana directs the crew to focus on the two emergencies.

    The second Galahad young adult science fiction thriller is action-packed but also contains a strong cast, who make the voyage and the current crises seem genuine. Readers will relish the frantic efforts to survive that are mindful of Scotty's save the Enterprise of original Star Trek. Triana is the charismatic leader who encourages the crew not to quit though solutions are not working in spite of incredible efforts to save themselves as they are humanity's last hope.

    Harriet Klausner

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2012

    Roise

    Eciting and thrilling

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 30, 2012

    Amazing

    Really amazing. Original very unlike any other book i have read

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 27, 2013

    Safire

    Slerps with silky

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