"Expendable", James Alan Gardner, 1997, 0-380-79439-X, U$5.99/C$7.99
%A James Alan Gardner
%C 1350 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10019
%I Avon Books/The Hearst Corporation
%O U$5.99/C$7.99 +1-800-238-0658 avonweb@...
%P 337 p.
Good book. Interesting sociology. Very nice plot twists, extremely
creative, but, in retrospect, perfectly fair and logical. Upbeat,
positive tone. Strong central character.
Oh, sure, we have stun guns, and hyperspace, and artificial gravity
(that never gets mentioned) and other space opera type stuff. But
Gardner has a lot of very realistic technology.
Such as pressure pots. Now mountain climbers would recognize this
instantly: water boils at a lower temperature when the air pressure is
lower. So it makes perfect sense that you have to cook coffee in a
pressure cooker in a space ship. You can, of course, make coffee with
"boiling" water at whatever temperature that happens to be. But it's
going to be pretty weak coffee.
Then we have the "transporter," powered by air pressure. Not as
dignified as Star Trek, perhaps, but there is nothing wrong with the
And that doomsday device is quite believable.
I do have a bit of a problem with the "Eloi." Transparent people bred
from (originally) human stock. Not that I don't think it could be
done: that comes under the heading of really far out technology, and,
as such, isn't really subject to criticism. However, if you did make
such people, and they really were transparent, but visible in the same
way that glass is, you should be able to see the internal bones, at
least, due to the difference in density, and therefore index of
refraction. Also, given that the base model is human, there is no
reason to assume that the transparent descendants would be any more
glasslike (save in appearance) than any other form of life based on
the same general chemistry. There is also the provision of some form
of photosynthesis in these organisms. A transparent body would
definitely have the advantage of allowing light to penetrate deeply
and "feed" all tissues, but it has the enormous disadvantage of not
being able to trap or use light.
copyright Robert M. Slade, 1999 BKXPNDBL.RVW 991016
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