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Lost in Transmission [Mass Market Paperback]

Wil Mccarthy
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
Price: 4.90 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

Mar 2004
In a novel that challenges our expectations at every turn, acclaimed author Wil McCarthy sweeps us into the future as only he can imagine it. Here is a thrilling odyssey of discovery and adventure aboard a ship of exiled rebels coming of age in an eternity that may be a lot shorter than anyone ever guessed.

Brash and idealistic, they were rebels without a cause in a world governed by science, reason...and immortality. Banished for their troubles to the starship Newhope, they now face a bold future: to settle the worlds of Barnard’s Star. Now King Bascal Edward de Towaji Lutui, former prince of the Queendom of Sol, together with Captain Xiomara “Xmary” Li Weng and her lover, first mate Conrad Mursk, face a perilous voyage with thousands of their fellow exiles. The journey will last a century, but with Queendom technology it’s no problem to step into a fax machine and “print” a fresh, youthful version of yourself. But what this crew of rebels will find is far from the paradise they seek. Before long, their optimistic young colony has started to show signs of strain. And worst of all, death itself has returned with a vengeance.

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Product details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam USA; New title edition (Mar 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553584472
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553584479
  • Product Dimensions: 17.6 x 10.8 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,619,076 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant science and really engaging 7 Dec 2012
By Mat P
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
Collapsium
The Wellstone
To Crush the Moon

This entire series is a fantastic read. I read them over a year ago and its a testament to their impact that I have finally come back to write this review. They are one of my favourite sci fi series along with the likes of the Foundation series by Asimov. I am an professional astronomer and cosmologist and I can confirm that the science is well thought out and thought provoking socially. I don't want to give much away but each book asks different and serious questions consequences of technology such as immorbity (similar by subtly different to immortality), mini-worm holes, programmable matter, terraforming and the lack of faster than light travel.

The 1st book (Collapsium) feels like a fun story of "daring do", but the issue discussed become progressively more complex and the characters more complex. This is not just excellent science - its also an exciting and engaging ride. I am looking forward to reading them again already. This is one of the most underrated and under-publicised series in science fiction and I strong encourage you to give them a try.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.9 out of 5 stars  12 reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard sci-fi meets awesome psychology 22 Mar 2004
By Daniel Roy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I picked up this book on a whim, based on the strange summary of immortals cast out of their home, and unaware that there were two previous books tied to this story. I would recommend that you pick up 'The Collapsium' and 'The Wellstone' before delving into 'Lost in Transmission', but know that the book stands formidably on its own.
I tend to avoid so-called 'hard scifi' books because I prefer a good story to a clever bit of scientific extrapolation. I find hard scifi books to dwelve too much into scientific exposition, as they seem to be too much in love with their own concepts to care about their characters.
This is partly true of Lost in Transmission, but it's far from annoying. The science displayed in this novel is, to be frank, absolutely stunning and well worth the expositions, especially as its workings have major consequences on the rest of the story. Not only does McCarthy tackle a frighteningly original and awe-inspiring concept, but he takes the time to think on its consequences on human life.
And that's what stands so perfectly at the core of this novel... It's the way the technology forms the basis of a fascinating study on human psychology, of a humanity that has no more material need and knows immortality. The protagonists are given this gift, then it slowly falls away from them as the story progresses.
The structure of the novel might seem disjointed, but it is perfectly appropriate for the nature of the story, that of the life of an immortal. The main character changes his mind a few times, gets close then drifts away from friends and lovers... In that regard, the story's pace is perfect for an immortal life, if quite unconventional.
Another thing I found awesome with this novel is the fact that there is no Bad Guy and Good Guy in this story. This means less drama at times, but as a whole, the story is much more satisfying for it.
All in all, I found much more than I expected from Lost in Transmission, and I heartily recommend it to fans of good scifi, hard or otherwise.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exciting sf 2 Mar 2004
By Harriet Klausner - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
In the twenty-sixth century earth time, mankind has achieved immortality through the fax and duplicating clones that can be used at a moment's notice. In such a society the children have no hope of making a mark because what can they do that their older and wiser parents can't? Some young rebels turn to piracy, revolution and other acts of violence that upsets the status quo. These rebels are caught and their punishment is to take the OSS Newhope to a world light years away and colonize it for a thousand years.
The former rebels make it to planet P2 and at first it looks like they will have the freedom to pursue their dreams. However, the planet is short on tracer metals needed to keep people healthy and young. As the technology wears out, there is nothing to replace it and for the first time these immortals know what final death is. One brave former revolutionary conceives of a plan to rescue some of the population but it is history that will judge whether he is a hero or a pirate.
In LOST IN TRANSMISSION readers will find that immortality leads to stagnation and a need for the status quo, a situation that drives the second generation of immortals into rebellion so they can break free of the social constraints. The irony is that when they "grow up" in tens of centuries they are much like their parents except for a few "old" revolutionaries who are not content with their situation and intend to change it (sounds like the love children of the sixties). Will McCarthy has written a fascinating book about a future the audience hopes will never come true.
Harriet Klausner
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Underrated dark novel of the downside of immortality and super high tech 13 May 2006
By Richard R. Horton - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Lost in Transmission is the third of Wil McCarthy's novels set a few centuries in the future in the Queendom of Sol (and successor states). I have enjoyed all these novels, and I feel they are improving as the series continues. One reason for this may be the increasing dark tone -- the first novel was in some ways a Tom Swiftian tour of fun technology, while the subsequent novels have focussed increasingly on the human problems of McCarthy's future. I rank Lost in Transmission one of the best SF novels of 2004.

All three books are set in a wondrous technological future, based largely on programmable matter and on instantaneous matter transmission. Crucially, the latter wonder also leads to near immortality: one can be maintained at any desired age by filtering software in the "faxes," and one can be reinstantiated from stored copies in case of accident. In the first two novels, we saw how this bounty led to near-utopian conditions, but how human nature represented the snake in that garden. The first novel, The Collapsium, is an episodic story in which the great scientist Bruno de Towaji thrice saves the Solar System from destruction. Here the problem is human jealousy and the great power available from such high tech. In the second novel, The Wellstone, Bruno's son Bascal and his friends, frustrated by the place of youth in a world of immortals, play a number of increasingly dangerous pranks, and end up exiled to Barnard's Star.

Lost in Transmission, then, is the story of the journey to Barnard's Star and the effort to colonize one of the planets of that star. The main character, as in The Wellstone, is Bascal's close friend Conrad Mursk. Conrad is First Mate of the Newhope, their starship. His lover Xiomara Li Weng, or Xmary, is the Captain. Bascal is the leader of the expedition and will be King once the new planet is reached. Conrad himself is a rather stolid young man, though perhaps not so stolid as he seems to think. His goal is to be an architect. He often feels pushed into Bascal's shadow: the other man is much more overtly brilliant, a poet, and a more energetic leader. But this relationship evolves a great deal throughout this book.

The journey to Barnard's Star takes a number of mostly uneventful decades. Conrad and most of the others spend the bulk of their time stored in fax memory, but Bascal stays "awake" the whole way. This more or less drives him mad. Once at the new planet, the group is faced with the job of terraforming a rather un-Earthlike place. They do this in part by altering themselves, in part by changing the planet and its fauna. They also colonize (to a small extent) the star system.

Here lies the heart of the novel, for it turns out that despite the incredibly high technology at hand, the colonists are resource-limited. Over time, it becomes harder and harder to guarantee regular fax updates, or even resurrection from accidents. Class divisions arise. Some people choose to alter themselves -- to flying forms, or to centaurs, or trolls: not always with happy results. Children are "born" from fax machines into an adolescent body, also with less than always happy results. Bascal's grip on his Kingdom depends more and more on the use of force.

I thought the novel was a very effective look at real limits to a seemingly miraculous technology. I found its treatment of economic problems well thought out, and its treatment of the personal problems of people living hundreds of years is also worthwhile. (Conrad's off again, on again, relationship with Xmary, and his increasingly difficult relationship with Bascal, being especially well done.) McCarthy's writing is strong as well -- he maintains a sardonic, sometimes funny, sometimes mordant tone throughout. He has fun with altering his third person voice on occasion -- quite effectively, I thought. As I said, one of my favorite books of the year.

This novel and its predecessor are each framed with chapters set in the future of both, after Conrad, much changed and much older, has returned to the Solar System. The home planet, it is clear, has gone through some terrible times of its own, reflecting yet further complications of the Queendom's very high tech level. In the next novel, we are told, Conrad will "save the world... in a manner of speaking". I look forward eagerly to that story.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Inconsistently great. 14 July 2007
By Bluejack - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This is the third book in McCarthy's _Queendom_of_Sol_ series, and the first I picked up (the first two in the series are not available in ebook editions!). As a standalone work, it works: the characters are vivid from the outset, so any missed characterization is unnecessary to the appreciation of this story. Moreover, it takes place in something of a discontinuity with the prior two books: the authors of the Children's Revolution are exiled to Barnard's star... so it doesn't take place in the context of Sol at all.

The Queendom of Sol series is a whimsical mix of Holy Fire (Bruce Stirling) Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy, and Michael Moorcock's The Dancers at the End of Time. Death has been defeated by advanced technology. People can record quantum images of themselves, restore from backup, fax themselves across the solar system. It's fun stuff. But it doesn't entirely apply in this particular story about the colonization of a new planet where resources are scarce and getting scarcer, and children (and revolutionaries) are doomed to recreate the authoritarian regimes they rebelled against.

McCarthy is ambitious in this series, tackling large spans of time, historical forces, scientific speculation, and parallel stories all while attempting to keep the traditional character based story on track. The pacing is occasionally erratic, and the necessity of selecting widely disparate times and places for the individual scenes undercuts the dramatic power of interpersonal tension. Like many books attempting to explore immortality, the reader must suffer characters who are sometimes tired of dealing with life, jaded, and generally afflicted by ennui. This also contributes to problems in pacing.

One other quibble is that McCarthy, despite the virtuoso display of craft, falls victim to a surprising number of "As You Know, Bob" moments. He does so almost self-consciously, as though confessing to a small but necessary blunder. Most of the time, however, he is extraordinarily adept at conveying his background and scientific speculation, so these occasional exceptions seem rather glaring.

Overall, I found this particular story a bit less interesting than the concluding book in the series (To Crush the Moon), in part because the characters in this story simply weren't as much fun as those left behind at Sol.

All these quibbles aside, McCarthy's ambition is successfully achieved: a large-scale novel on a human-sized stage. Fans of character-centric SF will find as much to love as hard-SF readers looking for plausible, adventurous science. If you're looking for "the good stuff" in contemporary science fiction, you should be reading Wil McCarthy.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Epic Continues! 21 April 2004
By Ben - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Some reviewers have commented that this book stands well on it's own. I wouldn't know, because I've avidly read The Collapsium and The Wellstone, which are just about my favorite books of all time. Amazingly, Lost In Transmission maintains that same level of kick-in-the-brain wonder.
Fleeing from an oppressive Utopia, the children of the first immortals seek a world where THEY can be leaders and visionaries. But building a new society is a lot harder than it looks, and many tears will be shed before they finally get it right, and as immortals they, too, must live through the future their own actions have created. A funny, sad, thoughtful book for anyone who has ever loved science fiction.
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