By Greg Egan
Night Shade Books, $24.99, 330 pages
Greg Egan’s talent as a sci-fi writer shines brightly in his new book Clockwork Rocket. The novel tells the story of Yalda, who lives in a world very different from our own. In Yalda’s world plants shine with their own internal light, characters can reshape their bodies at will and women give birth through dividing their bodies into parts, resulting in their own deaths, while their male counterparts take on primary child-raising responsibilities. Yalda’s story is of one woman who surpasses her humble beginnings as a farm girl to become one of the foremost scientists on her planet, transcending the socially mandated role of women as mere genetic fodder for their children.
Although this story is a bit slow in the beginning, readers who stick it out past the first couple of chapters will be richly rewarded in the development of the main character. Her story is compelling, and the science is meshed with in-depth and believable character development. Egan manages to bring many of the important issues that we face here on Earth into sharp focus even while dealing with a totally alien race. The science in this book is very high level and is illustrated throughout the book with a series of graphs that help clarify what the main characters are explaining. For readers who haven’t dealt with any kind of physics before, the explanations and graphs can still be slightly overwhelming, but not understanding the mathematics doesn’t take much away from the story line. This is definitely a book for true sci-fi readers, and for science geeks.