Review: Sun of Suns by Karl Schroeder
Audible is offering a pretty fine promotion: A free download of Sun of Suns by Karl Schroeder. I’d been wanting to check out this series, so I downloaded it. I had a good experience with Audible, so I’ll probably try some other titles as well.
Schroeder has created a truly unique playground for this series. Virga is a large sphere floating in space, filled with a breathable atmosphere. Nothing inside the sphere is large enough to generate significant gravity, so centripetal acceleration is brought to bear in habitats of various sizes. Something is inhibiting certain types of technology, so we’re left with a Dune like situation where society has advanced beyond what would have been possible at the current level of technology. The mixture of early 20th century technology and a weightless environment leads to vessels that act like equal parts space ship and sail boat.
There’s an underlying mystery from the opening paragraph of the book, and that’s the question of how this “world” came to be. I quickly caught on to the rules and limitations, but was constantly surprised by the ideas that Schroeder managed to work into the framework. We get some hints along the way that we’re not in a fantasy realm, but in a shockingly advanced “man” made structure. By the end of this novel, the first in a series, we have a good feel for Virga’s place in the larger universe.
The meat of this novel is a last ditch treasure hunt for something that will turn the tide in a looming battle. It’s easy to see the similarities to both historical naval fiction and other examples of Space Opera. The mechanics of battle and exploration also bring to mind both. Cities in hollowed out spherical seas, wooden structures that are for all intents and purposes space stations, Icebergs hanging from the ceiling of the world–These things transform the familiar into the extraordinary.
The characters don’t manage to outshine the pyrotechnics and the intriguing technological mash-up, but that’d be a pretty tall order. I find it fairly interesting that we don’t see anything from the point of view of the other nations. Other than one pirate captain, the big, story moving antagonists are faceless abstractions, the fleets of other nations and whatever is outside of Virga. There’s plenty of internal strife amongst the point of view characters to keep things interesting. The arc of the novel is satisfying, particularly the pacing of the final climax.
I’m totally hooked on this unique environment and technological mix. I look forward to finding out more about the world outside of Virga, the citizens surrounding other suns, and the fate of the characters that survived this book. The big question for me is whether I grab the physical book or continue with the audible production of Queen of Cadensce.