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Almost as lengthy as the seventh chamber....
on 10 July 2012
This is a SF novel wide in scope although for me didn't quite hit the mark.
The basic plot concerns a large hollow asteroid that appears in Earth's orbit at a time of rising tension between the Soviets and the US. Exploration of the hollowed asteroid reveals a series of chamber with flora, weather systems and cities, and th politics of the exploration only serves to heighten US/Soviet tensions. The seventh chamber is apparently endless and contains the mysterious 'Way' which distorts space-time and acts as a portal with gates to access parallel universes. Interesting concepts thoughout but many have been done before in previous works, so for me not as groundbreaking as some suggest.
The weaknesses of the novel and the reason I didn't really warm to it for me are many. Firstly the novel is obviously a product of the cold-war age and now seems quite dated. This in itself is something the reader should take as a product of its time, first published in 1985, but in places reads like a cold war thriller set in space. The characterisation is rather poor with too many one and two dimensional characters throughout the novel and some very banal dialogue in places. The descriptions of the asteroid are quite difficult to follow and visualise with some completely incomprehensible psuedo-technological explanations. As the main characters journey down 'The Way' they encounter a future human civilisation which has evolved and developed technology beyond easy description, numerous alien beings, neomorphs, homomorphs and all sorts of other crazy incarnations. There is some difficult to follow political machinations relating to various factions such as the Naderites and Geshels. All round, too many ideas with too many incomprehensible explanations, and far too long. The writing really failed to grip me.
I can see why some people like the ideas and the detail, but for me this really clouded the story; less is more springs to mind. Taken as a whole it seemed a real mishmash of things, including Soviet/US conflict, badly sketched human characters and their relationships, weird aliens and future beings, and difficult to read descriptions. It may be appreciated by the fans of space opera, but I prefer a much punchier style of SF. I'm certainly not tempted to reach for the sequels.