Starmind, by Spider Robinson, Jeanne Robinson

starmind-by-spider-robinson-jeanne-robinson coverGenre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Baen
Published: 1995
Reviewer Rating: three and a half stars
Book Review by David Hart

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This is the last of a trilogy, the first two books of which are Stardance and Starseed. As with Starseed, it could just about stand alone, but you will miss out on quite a lot if you haven’t read at least Stardance.

The year is 2064 and, helped and influenced by the Stardancers, the Earth is becoming a better place: no wars, most pollution and illness cured by nanotechnology, and now even a spate of inexplicable minor miracles. Despite this, some people manage to create misery for themselves. Most of the story revolves around the strained marriage of Rhea, a writer who loves her home town, and Rand, a composer who is offered an immensely prestigious permanent post at the best hotel in space. Meanwhile behind the scenes, plans are coming to fruition that will resolve this and most other problems once and for all.

And that is the reason why I enjoyed Starmind less than its predecessors. The major part of the book deals with Rhea and Rand and their delightful 8 year old; and while this plot is well constructed and well written and of some intrinsic interest, it is almost entirely tangential to the important things happening around them. But however important those things are, they take little time to relate; without this plot-line, the book would be a novelette. Clearly Robinson had to bulk out the story somehow, but it’s a shame he couldn’t have conjured a bigger plot out of more central issues. The other negative to report is in the ending, which features an indigestible dollop of pseudoscience.

Nevertheless the book is an overall success, with the quality of the writing and characterization more than counterbalancing the defect in the plotting. It helps too that it is structured properly, with the well-paced main plot being spiced by teasing hints of interest to come, and the action speeding as the ending approaches. While no one would call the book unmissable, few will regret reading it.

Time for an overview of the trilogy. A common fault in long novels or in series is make the reader wade through a tedious “hero’s childhood” section before the excitement begins. Here the problem is just the opposite: the best bit is the first 90 pages of the first book, and it is so good that the rest of the trilogy suffers in comparison. But only in comparison. It remains very readable, and contains the best description that I know of life in microgravity. Were I able to grade the trilogy as a whole, I should award four stars; and I suspect that anyone with any interest in modern dance would give at least half a star more.

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