|Submitted by firstname.lastname@example.org |
(Mar 20, 2009)
If you liked Helen Collins first SF novel Mutagenesis, you’ll love her new book, Neurogenesis. Collins deftly weaves multiple threads of ideas into a compelling narrative: the race against time to secure a planet’s economic underpinnings, the challenge of a new self-evolving spaceship operating system re- programmed – by whom? – and a quest to communicate with, and survive, an intelligent and ominous human-size avian species called Corvi. The fast pacing, well-limned characters, “new” technologies and strong, complex story line keep the reader fully engrossed.
Gisonne Michaelis, 36th century specialist in groups, organizes and joins the crew for the SPEEDship Procne. At short notice the crew must take on two additional tasks: test the evolution of a new ship’s operating system and transport Diana Allain, leader of the Zalterius II (Z2) ruling family, on a mission to Quivera to retain control over a critical material needed for the power source for faster-than–light SPEED travel, and for the very survival of Zalterians. After launch the crew, to its horror, learns that the OS autopilot has been irreversibly reset, in effect sending them on a long trajectory towards lingering death.
In time the OS “evolves” in dangerously unexpected ways and finally re-progams the SPEEDship to land on a planet inhabited by an intelligent and ominous human-size avian species called Corvi. The crew struggles to survive, to learn why and how the Corvi sensed the OS and saved the ship, and to find a link between the race of Corvi and the race of humans. With Corvi help with the Procne’s new OS, the team completes the mission to Quivera and returns to Z2 where Gisonne at last discovers who attempted murder by autopilot reset. Collins’ description of human behavior in small groups is insightful; the re-balancing of roles under the stress of space travel and “culture shock” is well-imagined. Her descriptions of culture of Corvi mirror their avian physiology and behavior – you’ll never look at a bird eying a worm in quite the same way. Collins has important things to say -- Corvi culture, the evolving SPEEDship OS and human group dynamics redefine for us the nature of “intelligence.”