Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Thrilling space settings

At tor.com, from James Davis Nicholl: Classic SF Works Set on Thrilling Space Habitats.

Disappointingly brief: Nicholl should have been able to come up with more than four such works. I mean, seriously, four? Of which, incidentally, I haven’t read any, so no comments from me regarding his choices, except there aren’t many of them.

I get that “thrilling space habitats” may be uncommon, depending on how you define your terms. How about Niven’s Integral Trees and The Smoke Ring? A ringworld is a “space habitat,” isn’t it? And you can hardly get more classic than these books, right?

How about all those linked stations we get in the last third of Stephenson’s Seveneves? The ships and stations we saw during the first two-thirds might not quite qualify as “habitats” but they were pretty thrilling. Not a classic yet, I grant you, since this book only came out a few years ago.

Oh, I’ve got one which is pretty much a classic — LMB’s Falling Free. That’s specifically a habitat — the Cay Habitat. True, the trilling part comes more from the story than the habitat, but still.

Lotta wild space habitats in KSR’s books, especially (of the ones I’ve read) 2312. 

In fact, in that one, almost all the thrillingness comes from the habitats, not the characters or the story. Love that city-on-rails on Mercury. Oodles of wonderful habitats, though.

I’ll throw in one more, the one that made me want to write this post, because I just read it last night: Linda Nagata’s Skye Object 3270a.

Who recommended this one to me? Pete Mack, I think? I liked it quite a bit. Here’s the relevant bit from the Goodreads description:

But the people of Silk face dangers of their own. Their city is in space, built around the column of a space elevator that rises from the planet’s surface into high orbit. Three-hundred kilometers below is the wild, plague-ridden planet called Deception Well.

See that? Thrilling space habitat, there you go. We see lots of thrilling space habitats in this short novel. Silk is one of those relatively rare SF settings where I would be happy to live, given a chance to move there.

Skye herself is an okay protagonist; the secondary characters are good — I was particularly fond of Buyu, who imo got rather a raw deal, but I’m sure he’ll manage to find something else to do with his life. This is a YA story, btw, which means that the teen characters have to drive the story while the adults are mainly obstacles to get around. The insane risks taken by the four teen characters are surprisingly justifiable given they are actually totally insane.

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1 Comment Thrilling space settings

  1. Pete Mack

    Yes, I mentioned Nagata’s short story. I never liked Integral Trees, even when I read it as a teenager. The physics are just so impossible I couldn’t suspend disbelief. First–those trees are impossible. If you blow in opposite directions on the ends of a fan will turn so that it is either aligned with the wind, or it will spin in time with the wind. Second– no way would there be a breathable atmosphere in space, around any kind of star. The gas would get blown away by the solar wind in a matter of a few hundred years. But I agree it is a unique world. Here is another one: Eric Flint and Dave Freer “Slow Train”, which is about an unusual kind of generation ship.

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