Heaven by Ian Stewart & Jack Cohen review
The dissemination fleet of the Church of Cosmic Unity is fast approaching the aquaseous planet of No-Moon where the primary sentient lifeform is a race of polypoids. They have come to spread the message of love, tolerance and peace. A good, commendable mission, right?
During the course of a bit over 400 pages we discover just how twisted the Memeplex has become and are treated to scenes of an all-out war on more than one front. We are introduced to characters that can be reprehensible but in no way unidimensional and to characters who tickle our imaginations. Most of all, we see the galaxy in a different light.
Now, there are some very easy allegorical comparisons to be made here. This is probably intentional. They are allusions that have been made over and over again. However, if you decide to ignore at least the one that for me was the most obvious, they won't take away from the enjoyment of the novel. They won't feel tedious. You won't even notice them most of the time. No, the centre stage is given to the hypothetical.
There are a few damned big 'what ifs' here and they are utterly delightful for anyone so inclined. There are major ethical questions which you will have to grapple with just as the characters do. These same dilemmas will probably even stay with you for a while, which is one of the advantages of the novel. It makes you think
'Heaven' offers a cavalcade of interesting creatures, fascinating central characters and seemingly endless material for philosophical and theological meditation and debate - not to speak of the adventure. This is a gripping novel and I found myself devouring it, in turns grinning like a loon and impatiently turning the next page, apprehensive of what was to happen next. Overall I suppose the word to use for this reading experience is 'brilliant'. Naturally, no book is perfect. There are quite a few detailed explanations which might have been better conveyed in some other fashion. Sometimes I couldn't help thinking 'infodump' while reading a passage, and some of the technical descriptions went way over my head.
Nevertheless, I definitely recommend this book for any fan of science fiction. If you happen to enjoy philosophy, bioscience and astronomy, so much the better. Buy it, borrow it - I don't care, just get the novel in your hands. You probably won't regret it.
Also, any theories you have on the identity of the Precursors will be gladly read. Personally I can't help but make a comparison to Vorlons but I suppose that is merely me being a geek.
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