EW reviews the newest sci-fi releases
SUNSTORM Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter
A massive sun flare threatens to sterilize Earth unless a team of scientists manages to build a space shield as wide as the planet.
Story’s Little Helper Athena, an artificial intelligence that inhabits the shield, is named after the Greek goddess whose mirrored shield was used by Perseus to slay Medusa.
Upshot Though Clarke and Baxter have mastered the art of saving the world in block-buster style, the climactic finale is clouded by a tangential subplot about insidious aliens.
HERE, THERE & EVERYWHERE Chris Roberson
Young Roxanne Bonaventure receives a powerful bracelet that opens bridges to branching and often divergent time lines — her actions in the past don’t change the future.
Story’s Little Helper She names the bracelet Sofia, Greek for wisdom, since ”these early Christian guys called the Gnostics worshipped Sofia almost like a goddess. . . .”
Upshot Roberson’s irreverent alternate histories of the Beatles, Sherlock Holmes, and H.G. Wells are a welcome stitch in the age-old time-travel tradition.
THE WELL OF STARS Robert Reed
A planet-size alien ship, captained by humans and other species, veers off course and into a nebula controlled by a Gala-like being that inhabits whole planets and scatters its living pollen across space.
Story’s Little Helper Mere, whose name means ”Tiny, and unremarkable” in an alien tongue, is the ship’s resident spy and can morph into almost any species.
Upshot Babylon 5 and Deep Space Nine put together don’t add up to the epic geekiness of Reed’s follow-up to 2000’s Marrow.
MINDSCAN Robert J. Sawyer
Jake Sullivan signs up as a customer of Immortex, a company that transfers human consciousness into artificial bodies. But when his original self is sent to the far side of the moon, which body deserves human rights?
Story’s Little Helper Karen Bessarian, a wealthy children’s novelist à la J.K. Rowling, befriends Jake and becomes immortex’s first legal test case.
Upshot Sawyer lucidly explores fascinating philosophical conundrums, but the courtroom drama reads too much like jury duty.