Book Review – ‘Perihelion Summer’ by Greg Egan

Celestial bodies creating global panic.

Perihelion Summer Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Science Fiction,

No. of pages: 224

From Goodreads:

Taraxippus is coming: a black hole one tenth the mass of the sun is about to enter the solar system.

Matt and his friends are taking no chances. They board a mobile aquaculture rig, the Mandjet, self-sustaining in food, power and fresh water, and decide to sit out the encounter off-shore. As Taraxippus draws nearer, new observations throw the original predictions for its trajectory into doubt, and by the time it leaves the solar system, the conditions of life across the globe will be changed forever.

page-border-by-casey-carlisle

This is more for the hard science fiction fans. Greg Egan has a distinct sophistication about his writing style and does not shy away from in-depth science and technology or theories. I really appreciated this type of narration, I like getting into the nuts and bolts of things. One glaring aspect that really stood out to me was the lack of building a protagonist the reader can connect with. I had a lot of difficulty even caring what was going on with Matt until the last third of the novella. And given the short length of this book, that is not a good thing. Additionally, whether due to the length, or the writing style, we don’t get a lot of character development either. But that is about the worst I had in opinion for ‘Perihelion Summer.’

The concept – black holes travelling through our solar system, altering the status quo and what it means for life on Earth is pretty amazing. That’s what got me hooked to purchase this novel in the first place. While I love the technicality in tone, the more mature narration, it felt a little stale. Being scientific and including all the data/mythology for your story can be distancing and isolating for a reader. Consequently for the first half I just kept wandering when something was going to happen for the character. I mean we were facing a potential extinction level event, our protagonist Matt surviving the catastrophe on a floating fish farm, aiding refugees, and I was bored. I wanted a stronger emotional connection, some motivation wrapped up in passion. We didn’t get any of that until close to the end when Matt rushed to rescue his family. Quite frankly, this novella would have packed a bigger punch if it was half the length.

Our protagonist Matt is determined and intelligent, and apart from facing a number of challenges, I don’t think he really changed throughout the entirety of ‘Perihelion Summer.’ The moment the novel ends on shows a moment of beginning down that road – but that’s it. The end.

Perihelion Summer Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

We get a cast of different races, refugees, pirates, raging seas. None of these are really fleshed out too much. Everything felt like a device to drive the central plot forward. I guess that is another aspect as to why the novella felt a little state: there weren’t enough fleshed out characters to support the story… more chances for the reader to make an emotional connection.

The concept and world building are excellent, the basics of storytelling structure and character development were not. Greg Egan’s forte is in short stories, so I guess expecting the full minutiae of novel writing was overambitious of me. ‘Perihelion Summer’ reads like a snap shot, the middle part of a novel. You get some resolution and feel like the story is finished, and it’s satisfying enough, but I just needed more.

The pacing is definitely off for the first half – it feels really slow. And again, given its length, ‘Perihelion Summer’ should of had a rip-roaring pace given the technical tone, content, and format. The last third especially was incredible and totally redeemed this novella in my eyes. I can see some serious writing chop there. I can’t really comment on predictability, there was no clear objective set at the start, it was more a recounting of a number of incidents from a heroes journey.

I think I could only recommend this to fans of shorter hard science fiction. If you don’t understand the basics of science, biology, physics, astrophysics, you may be constantly looking things up to make sense of casual sentences. The writing style is distinctly masculine, and sparse. It’s more a case of being a fan of Greg Egan, or loving this niche demographic. But ‘Perihelion Summer’ would be a good novella to dip you toe in the waters of hard sci-fi to see if it’s something you like before tackling a full-length novel.

Overall feeling: …*computing… computing…*

Perihelion Summer Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Perihelion Summer Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

critique-casey-by-casey-carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s