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Spider Star by Mike Brotherton

01/11/2009. Contributed by RJ Barker

Buy Spider Star in the USA - or Buy Spider Star in the UK

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pub: TOR/Forge. 448 page hardback. Price: $26.95 (US), $29.95 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-7653-1125-2.

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On the planet Pollux, an archaeological expedition runs across another of the ancient ruins left by the Argonauts who previously inhabited the planets. Unwittingly, this sets off a doomsday weapon that will cause Pollux' sun to destroy the planet. Researching the scant information left by the Argonoauts shows this weapon was created by another ancient civilization and the only way to stop the destruction is to send an expedition to the 'Spider Star', a huge construct over fifty years away. A collection of scientists and military personnel are sent on the long trip to the Spider Star where they encounter the remains of the Argonauts while seeking for a way to save their own civilization.

I found this a hard book to get into. Some parts are fascinating, the fragments of the Argonauts civilization and the way Mike Brotherton dribbles them out keep you reading at through the first half. However, also in the first half, the bureaucratic detail and the home life of the main characters often feels like filler. I kept finding myself thinking, 'get on with it.' Plus, the characters tend towards being a little irritating and whiny. More than once I found myself becoming frustrated with the characters internal dialogue.

Brotherton's writing picks up when he is addressing the more scientific aspects. Then it becomes fascinating and the Spider Star itself is a great concept; vast, labyrinthine and containing mysteries aplenty. The action sequences are handled nicely and the interactions with the aliens work well. The aliens themselves are also pleasingly alien.

Despite this, I never really felt like this book clicked with me the way I wanted it to. Although the action zips along at a nice pace, once we're in the Spider Star and interacting with its denizens, I always felt like an interested viewing rather than being totally immersed in proceedings. I think this is because I didn't really feel any great connection to the main characters. With that element missing the danger to them and, by extension, their civilisation wasn't really that affecting for me.

If your interest is more the science than the people then I think you'll love 'Spider Star' and despite my own misgivings, I think it's a probably a book most hard SF readers will enjoy.
RJ Barker

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