Saturday, July 08, 2006

Marrow - by Robert Reed

This was a book that was recommended to me on Amazon, given the kind of books I'd been browsing through or buying, and the review certainly sounds appealing. The concept of a giant and unmanned spaceship, hurtling through the universe from an unknown source, certainly lends itself to one of the great mysteries of life - what's out there? here's a brief plot outline…

When a vast spaceship about the size of Jupiter is detected heading towards the Milky Way from the depths of intergalactic space, the race is on to reach it first and to claim any prize of first encounter with what must be a hugely more advanced race. Humans are the first ones there but they soon discover that the ship is a derelict, running on automatic. There's no sign of its builders and no indication of life aboard, if fact, they surmise that it's probably billions of years old.

So where did it come from, where was it going, who built it and why weren't they aboard now? While they pondered those questions for millenia, the new crew steer the ship towards their arm of the galaxy and it soon becomes populated by billions of species either as crew or paying passengers.

When a survey of the interior of the ship uncovers an entire planet at its core, a group of the ship's best captains is sent down to investgate the world they now call "Marrow".

This starts out quite a promising tale. It's set in a far future where humanity has been re-engineered to be almost immortal and other alien races are a well known fact but the mystery is still there regarding the ship's builders, where they came from, why they built such a vast ship and why, when it becomes known, did they secrete a planet at its core.

However, I found the characters uninteresting and the fact that they were almost indestructable makes it a very long-winded tale. That and the fact that the author obviously changed the storyline as the book progressed certainly put me off a bit. The immortality thing is another worry as there's no mention of how the captains could tolerate the tedium of existing for hundereds of millenia and that would surely drive a percentage of any species mad. Maybe that was why we got the seemigly incessant use of the word "Madam" as it was certainly starting to drive me mad.

At the start of the story, as the ship is discovered, it looks like we're going to get a plot with a sentient ship computer trying to communicate with those that first board it but that idea soon vanishes and we hear nothing again of the ship computer but we're suddenly thrown into a story of the ship as a tourist bus, wandering through the galaxy and picking up a lucrative passenger trade. Then there's Marrow and I suppose it got interesting again but only for a short period as the tedium of a 5,000 year wait set in.

Then there's the ending or un-ending, whatever you want to call it. It just wasn't satisfactory enough and we get no real answers about Marrow, the ship or its builders, just a hypothesis and possibly the answer to life, the universe and everything. There is a sequel available but given the reviews I've seen for that, I don't think I'll bother and I'll be more careful when buying on an Amazon recommendation in future..

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Science-Fiction
ISBN: 1-841-49078-4
My Rating: 6/10

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