Genre: Science Fiction
Book Review by David Hart
Have you read this book?
This is the second in the series that starts with Stardance and finishes with Starmind. It could be enjoyed as a stand-alone novel, but it would be much better to read Stardance first.
The action takes place about 25 years after Stardance. It tells the story of Morgan McLeod, a professional dancer who at 46 has worn out her body. Fortunately there is a way for her to dance again: all she needs to do is to sign up to be a Stardancer, which means leaving Earth for ever and merging with the symbiotic life-form that allows humans to live in space (as I said, you really need to read Stardance first!).
So after a brief introduction we follow her to the habitable asteroid that has been placed in Earth orbit as a base for the compulsory 3 months acclimatization and training of potential candidates. But there is opposition to the stardancers, in part from certain religious groups, and there is sabotage and a terrorist attack.
This book is different from Stardance, most of which dealt with dance both in and out of gravity. Here there are episodes of dancing, but it is far less of a central theme. Instead for most of the book we watch the characters learning to live in microgravity, both within the habitat and without. That this is enjoyable to read is due partly to the well-drawn and distinctive characters and their interactions, but mostly to the description of the training itself.
You might wonder how interesting it can be to read about weeks of space training, and in some hands it would be tedious indeed; but Robinson is incapable of dull writing, and he expertly intersperses scenes of the space training with others of training in Zen (for relaxation), the characters interacting in their free time, plus the odd bit of enemy action. It helps too that the detail of zero-g conduct and maneuvering has the ring of truth, being derived from the then-recent Skylab missions.
What is bad about the book? Nothing, but some things are less good than others. In the last 50 pages the book changes into a whodunit, and the level of plausibility of the characters’ motivation and actions diminishes a little. The resolution of the climax, though employing a theme very much in keeping with the rest of Robinson’s works, here has a whiff of deus ex machina about it.
But these are quibbles. Though lacking the intensity of the first part of Stardance, this is a more than worthy sequel to it, which few will fail to relish.