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3.3 out of 5 stars
Starplex (Unabridged)
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 19 February 1998
Starplex tries very hard to give a sense of wonder by introducing lots of wonderful new (and some old) ideas. Everything is here- a universe spanning instantaneous travel network, immortality, myterious superpowerful aliens, interstellar war, dark matter, Jupiter sized intelligent beings, etc, etc, etc...
There's only one problem- it gives far too many new ideas, so many that huge plot arcs are handled in five pages and then discarded like so much used kleenex. The war is a classic example- the causes are mentioned in about two paragraphs with no lead up, the Starplex comes under attack, a Deus ex Machina ends the attack, and the Starplex is flung bazillions of light years away through a totally new method of traversing the wormholes. The Starplex returns to human space after about two pages, gets fixed, the war ends, some pablum about "everyone should live together" is spoken and the war ends. The rest of the topics are treated in much the same manner- great ideas, but no real follow through on what they might mean, or even how they affect the rest of the novel.
The characters are mere cardboard props to try and push the story along. Sadly, we end up feeling no real emotional connection to any of them, even to the tragic story of the Ib.
I give the novel a 4 simply because some of the ideas are neat, and they were fun to contemplate. The rest of the book just doesn't work. If this wins a Nebula or Hugo I'll be disappointed- there's far, far better written SF out there.
Eric
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 23 August 1999
IMHO this book is Sawyer's best. It's a good blend of "good old" hardcore science fiction and several episodes with a great deal of Sense of wonder. This is what Star Trek should have been... (FYI I dislike Star Trek due to many reasons.) Starplex touches and captures things that made me start reading Sf fifteen years ago. "Are we alone?" "What would it be to meet another race/civilization?" "What is space like?"
It's not the "deepest" novel I've read but instead gave me great amusement in it being fast paced and what I would like to call clearly written. Even if you only can read a few pages at a time (like I) Sawyer makes things happen all the time, both "small" and "big" things.
I highly recommend it (despite my bad english) ;-)
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on 26 February 1999
First of all, I would like to remind some of the other reviewers that the point of the book is to be a STORY and NOT a scientifically documentation of the future. If you think its a problem that some scientific details are wrong, then perhaps you can name a book where every detail is perfect. If you can do so, then I will agree with what you say. The book was interesting and was accurate enough for me. The next thing you comlain about is how the character only things about adultery and his best friends death. Obviously you don't know what it's like to lose someone, otherwise you would realize that it's a hard thing to get over, and for the adultery bit, well, if you were contemplating cheating on your wife, then I assure you that you to would spen a great deal of time thinking about. So what you to be UNrealistic, is actually what the main character WOULD be thinking. Another complaint is that the plot is a copy of Star Trek. Maybe your right, but this was ten times better than Star Trek, because I hate Star Trek and I love this book. You complain about the Waldahudin, and how they are designed, but do you really think an alien race will be thought provoking and in-depth just because they're aliens? No, it's bull and you know it. Aliens don't follow a schematic, they are the author's creation, and he/she can do whatever he/she wants with them. This was an excellent book, maybe even my favourite of all time, and if Mr. Sawyer ever reads this review, I hope he realizes that SOME people actually appreciate good writing, unlike some morons I can think of.
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on 19 May 1997
I read "Starplex" as a serialization in Analog Magazine, and I must say that I was not as impressed by the novel as many others seem to be.

True, there are many mind-bending ideas in this book. It makes every effort to create that "sense of wonder" that so many critics have sought in vain in contemporary science fiction. It is in the process of providing that "sense of wonder" that "Starplex" falls short.

To put it briefly, I was unable to achieve the necessary suspension of belief required to enjoy any novel. The main reason for this was Sawyer's unfortunate habit of pulling rabbits out of hats.

The most obvious example of this that comes to mind is a scene where the research star vessel "Starplex" is under military attack. Suddenly, in the middle of a battle, the director (analogous to the captain) of the space laboratory orders that unarmed shuttles be retrofitted with laser drilling gear and sent out as fighters. Incredibly, the crew of "Starplex" manages to accomplish this feat, and the improvised battle craft actually defeat fully armed alien battle cruisers!

The fact that this novel was nominated for a Hugo Award depresses me. If it wins, I will be disgusted.
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This was truly an incredible book. Starplex was a rare exploration of the Space Opera sub-genre, and as Robert J. Sawyer intended, did not focus on a military plot as the central theme, but rather, a peaceful group of scientists who's mission was to make peaceful contact with other races via a vast network of 'shortcuts' or stargate type devices. Yes, there is certainly space combat and battles, but what makes this book so different is the anchoring in real science fiction roots -- at it's core it's about science, and the extrapolation and exploration of 'what-if' scenarios. It seeks to tease apart answers to current scientific knowledge.

To say this book was riveting was an understatement. I read it in 24 hours, and wished there was a whole series like it. But alas, this book is, and must be, fully self-contained. Starplex plucks the most melodious strings of science fiction, and turns them into a symphony for the mind.

The various races described in the novel were also fascinating, each with distinct cultures and idiosyncrasies. Sawyer is a man with an incredible imagination.

Almost 20 years after publication this book remains singular and utterly engaging.
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on 31 October 2010
It's hard to define what makes a book so readable that you don't want to put it down. This is one of those books. The story flows well and there is enough suspense to keep you turning the pages. As with most of Sawyers books, it also leaves you thinking about the universe we live in, the scales and wonders all around us.

The story revolves around the commander of a great starship on a mission of discovery. It also examines his relationships with his wife and co-workers, both human and alien. When you get to the end of the book, the story continues as you put it all together in your head to get the meaning behind it all.

A really great read. Also try Illegal Alien from Robert Sawyer or any of his other books. Don't be put off by the "Americanised" TV series Flashforward. Robert Sawyer is Canadian and his books are much better than the screen play that seemed to be dumbed down for a TV audience.
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on 30 November 1997
Unlike the previous reviewer I found Starplex a highly enjoyable read. The science is top notch and there certainly is lots of "crunchy bits" in this regard. However at the same time the scientific revelations never seem to intrude on the story. Starplex also earns points for a nice resolution to the plot. The main characters in Starplex don't overwhelm and outsmart all of their problems. Some of the problems are negotiated/partialy unresolved at the end of the novel. I found this a paticularly satisfying and intelligent resolution. If you like solid interstellar hard sf and intelligent resolutions to your plots (as opposed to superhuman protagonists smashing all opposition like a house of cards in the second to last chapter) then Starplex is for you.
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on 11 December 1998
I have been looking at the reviews that people have given this book. To be direct I would say that this is an embarrasing attack on one of Canada's best authors. I have read Starplex multiple times and I still enjoy it. It might not be the hardcore science fiction that some crave, but it offers an imaginative look into or our future. It truly deserved to be a Hugo Award nominee. This is one of the most amazing works that I have read by Sawyer. It's excitment and imagination are only surpassed by The Terminal Experiment. This book is awesome. Mr. Sawyer, if you read this. Know that some people still are your fans, we enjoy your writng and we can't wait for more.
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on 27 August 1999
I saw a web site on the use of sci-fi to teach astronomy at the university level that said this book dealt with more cosmological concepts than any other sci-fi work, and dealt with them well. (I don't think Amazon allows URLs, but try a search on 'teaching astronomy science fiction'). I can only agree. I follow the cosmological literature quite closely and Sawyers' book is a first rate summation of all the issues currently vexing cosmologists ... wrapped up with action-adventure and fun characters and aliens.
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on 9 December 1997
This book has a little bit of everything. Mr. Sawyer's imagination is excellent. The story-line is a little weak in a couple of areas (thus, no 10); however, overall, the writing, characters, and plot are far above average.
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