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The Children Star

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The ruthless plans of Proteus Unlimited, a powerful and greedy corporation, to terraform the planet of Prokaryon threaten to destroy any native intelligence alien life as well as the lives of a colony of orphans who make Prokaryon their home.


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The ruthless plans of Proteus Unlimited, a powerful and greedy corporation, to terraform the planet of Prokaryon threaten to destroy any native intelligence alien life as well as the lives of a colony of orphans who make Prokaryon their home.

30 review for The Children Star

  1. 5 out of 5

    David

    Usually "hard SF" refers to physics and engineering — crunchy orbital mechanics and interplanetary travel with terms like "delta-v," weapons and other technology that at least has some plausible physics behind it. The most esteemed SF novels are those written by actual scientists and engineers (or those who could fake it well enough, like Heinlein, who had his starship pilots working out interstellar routes with slide rules...) Larry Niven's Ringworld is a classic because while a ring around a s Usually "hard SF" refers to physics and engineering — crunchy orbital mechanics and interplanetary travel with terms like "delta-v," weapons and other technology that at least has some plausible physics behind it. The most esteemed SF novels are those written by actual scientists and engineers (or those who could fake it well enough, like Heinlein, who had his starship pilots working out interstellar routes with slide rules...) Larry Niven's Ringworld is a classic because while a ring around a star is probably not something that an advanced alien race could actually build (or would want to, if they could), he at least made it appear achievable, with the proverbial "sufficiently advanced technology." (And then he wrote The Ringworld Engineers when his fans corrected his math.) Odd, then, how rarely we pay the same amount of attention to biology. Trekkies want to know all the technical details of warp drives and phasers, but are content to accept a universe full of humanoid aliens with various shades of wrinkly foreheads. (Yes, yes, I know there is some semi-official canon out there about a "forerunner" race that seeded the Star Trek galaxy with the ancestors of humans, Klingons, and Vulcans, et al, but explain to me how Vulcan biochemistry is so frikkin' alien they have green blood and yet they can interbreed with humans?) Anyway, The Children Star takes the opposite path — interstellar travel is simply handwaved away as a thing that exists, as are moon-sized spaceships and "white holes" to sterilize planets, but Joan Slonczeswki's biology is at least as rigorous as Heinlein's rocket science or Niven's planetary engineering. Not surprisingly, Joan Slonczeswki is in fact a professor of microbiology. The planet Prokaryon has a very alien environment. All life there has triplex DNA and is made of amino acids that just don't play well with terrestrial life, and yet it has a complicated, evolved ecology populated by zoöids and phycoöids and microzoöids, all completely incompatible with the humans who settle on it. So humans have resorted to "lifeshaping," which is the slow process of bioengineering humans to adapt to the Prokaryon environment, able to eat Prokaryon flora and fauna and breathe Prokaryon air. Usually this only works when begun with children, which is how the Spirit Callers, a monastic order, wound up with a small settlement on Prokaryon, taking care of lifeshaped orphans abandoned on other worlds. The universe of The Children Star consists of an interstellar government called the Fold, made up of several planets of (presumably) human descent, each of which has its own biological and psychological quirks and political factions. The story alternates between survival and mystery on Prokaryon, where there have long been traces of a hidden intelligent race, but no hard evidence, and interstellar political machinations, where one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in the Fold wants to just boil Prokaryon's surface and terraform it. The mystery behind the alleged "hidden masters" of Prokaryon maintains the suspense for about the first two-thirds of the book, along with the question of whether or not the Spirit Callers and their allies, including simian scientists and free sentient machines, can save the planet. In many respects, The Children Star is a traditional space opera, with an almost Asimovian planetary mystery. But the hard bio-science and the thoughtfully worked-out factions and societies of the Fold elevate this book above most of its kind. It is certainly one of the best SF novels I read this year, and I will have to read more by Slonczewski. The Children Star is apparently the third book in a series, but it takes place thousands of years after the preceding one, so it stands alone well enough.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Wealhtheow

    In A Door into Ocean Slonczewski used the view points of characters from capitalist Valedon to introduce the communal-living, all female pacifists of Shora. The main plot was tension between Valedon's economic coercion and the Sharers' aim to never cause harm, and it culminated in the question of whether aliens (or rather, people with a completely alien view point that would destroy everything one values) were still too human to be harmed. The next book, Daughter of Elysium, is set thousands of In A Door into Ocean Slonczewski used the view points of characters from capitalist Valedon to introduce the communal-living, all female pacifists of Shora. The main plot was tension between Valedon's economic coercion and the Sharers' aim to never cause harm, and it culminated in the question of whether aliens (or rather, people with a completely alien view point that would destroy everything one values) were still too human to be harmed. The next book, Daughter of Elysium, is set thousands of years later, when both the Sharers and Valedon are part of an intergalactic network of treaties and trade. Thousands of years after that comes The Children Star, centered around a small colony of orphans trying to create a life for themselves on an alien planet. Prokaryon is inhospitable to outside life but seems to have no sapient creatures...except that the trees are planted in rows, the mountains crafted in pleasing shapes, and brush fires are immediately extinguished with targeted rain storms. The colonists are convinced that Prokaryon harbors some alien intelligence, but unless they can prove it the entire planet will be terraformed for use by the teaming, starving masses back home. Slonczewski's characters always have well-drawn interior lives. Their conversations range from philosophy to child care arrangements, with each given as much weight as the other. (And I do love that there are some many different family styles presented in these books, from 1 man& 1 woman with biological children to single parents to adoptive parents to people parenting with friends or same sex lovers to the Elysians, whose children are raised in creches by robots.) The ethics and thought experiments she sets up in her books are even more fascinating. (view spoiler)[In her first book the reader is asked to consider whether aliens are human; in the next, whether machines are. This book makes the question more difficult still: it introduces us to microbes capable of communicating with or even controlling other living beings, and we must again decide whether these creatures, which live on a time scale in miniature to us but have the power to reshape our minds or very flesh, should have the same rights and respect as given other intelligent beings. (hide spoiler)] . Slonczewski writes incredibly thoughtful, fascinating thought experiments, and powers them with likable characters and enough plot to keep the pages turning. I wish more people read these books!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Julian Spergel

    This book has an interesting premise, but it felt like the author had 3-4 really good ideas for plot points in the middle, and struggled to make a cohesive story at the beginning and end. It's a shame, because I love Slonczewski's world-building in the first two books of the arc. Overall, the buildup has too much summarizing to the point of being confusing, and the end felt anti climatic and slow. This book has an interesting premise, but it felt like the author had 3-4 really good ideas for plot points in the middle, and struggled to make a cohesive story at the beginning and end. It's a shame, because I love Slonczewski's world-building in the first two books of the arc. Overall, the buildup has too much summarizing to the point of being confusing, and the end felt anti climatic and slow.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Alexa

    I was eagerly looking forward to reentering Slonczewski’s universe; her straightforward and intelligent writing style appeals to me. Unfortunately this one fell a little flat. The main character here is the biology, which means all of the human characters are only secondary. Which made the whole thing a bit tedious for me; I just didn’t connect all that well with the adventures with variations of DNA.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Hailey M

    Number theory, immortal lesbians, detailed descriptions of alien molecular biology, veiled shots at missionary work. This book has truly got it all.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jean Triceratops

    [I read old fantasy and sci-fi novels written by women authors in search of forgotten gems. See more at forfemfan.com] I've sat on this review, unsure where to take it, for at least a week. Part of it was because I was interviewing. That takes too much time and energy for almost anything else. Frankly, I was thrilled I squeezed in reading at all. But I accepted a job offer (yay!) a few days ago, and I'm still struggling with how to tackle it, so I guess it's time to jump in. Brother Rod, a Spirit [I read old fantasy and sci-fi novels written by women authors in search of forgotten gems. See more at forfemfan.com] I've sat on this review, unsure where to take it, for at least a week. Part of it was because I was interviewing. That takes too much time and energy for almost anything else. Frankly, I was thrilled I squeezed in reading at all. But I accepted a job offer (yay!) a few days ago, and I'm still struggling with how to tackle it, so I guess it's time to jump in. Brother Rod, a Spirit Caller from Valedon, helps run a colony of orphans on the unusual planet Prokaryon, so named because all organisms are prokaryotic.  (If your memory of biology is failing you, prokaryotic organisms are made of cells that do not have a membrane-bound nucleus. In our world, prokaryotic organisms are pretty much exclusively bacteria. On Prokaryon, prokaryotic organisms can be complex, ranging from bacteria to elephant-sized creatures.) Prokaryon is an idyllic world: the weather is temperate, crops are easy to grow, there are no natural disasters, and even things like forest fires seem to fizzle out before they become a problem. There's just one catch: Brother Rod and all of his children must be life-shaped to handle the toxic elements that comprise Prokaryon's environment. The process is slow, expensive, and only gets worse with age. At least his fellow Spirit Callers, all sentient machines, don't need to take such steps. Unfortunately, Brother Rod's newest orphan, 'jum, is older than she appears, requiring costly life-shaping for months. Worse, she seems completely disinterested in the colony and even Brother Rod. Instead, she inhabits a mental world of numbers. Was rescuing her a mistake? For the first hundred pages or so, this is the focus: the world of Prokaryon front and center, and Brother Rod doing his best by his colony. Money is a concern, and so is the general care of the children, but this seems standard across all Spirit Colonies. Are there any humanitarian sources not concerned about money and its mission? 'jum gets the occasional chapter where she obsesses over numbers, but as a stereotypical "savant" character, these don't add much nuance. Far more interesting is the mystery of Prokaryon. There's something not quite natural about how it's laid out, the way it—for lack of a better word—behaves. But then again, as Brother Rod repeatedly recognizes, it is a tremendously alien world. Perhaps these things are natural, after all? These themes make up the bulk of the first 100 pages, and while Brother Rod is front-and-center for all of it, it, to me, seemed clear that the "point" wasn't Brother Rod, or 'jum, or their relationships. It was the planet of Prokaryon. This "promise" is accomplished in several ways, but perhaps the most compelling is highlighted by the nature of Brother Rod's relationship with both Prokaryon and his colony. Even Brother Rod is being life-shaped to be able to survive everything Prokaryon has to offer, he doesn't struggle to adapt, emotionally/mentally, to the changes of living on Prokaryon. His biggest emotional concern is one day being able to eat Prokaryon food, as the colony can only afford cheap, bland meal packets for him. He doesn't become invested in the unique ecology of the world and grow to understand his place within it. Prokaryon is not a part of him, nor does he feel himself to be a part of Prokaryon. It's just the setting of his life. Despite this, he marvels at Prokaryon's landscapes, plants, animals, and animal-plant hybrids. We spend a lot of time learning about Prokaryon through him, considering its complexities and incongruities. We stare off into space along with Rod and contemplate the nature of Prokaryon. And that's what Prokaryon feels like, through Brother Rod's eyes: a puzzle that he's mulling over because he can't help himself. But he's not a scientist; he could walk away from the mystery of Prokaryon without regrets. The only thing that matters is that his colony is safe. His relationships with the others in his colony are shallow. There are no fights, no confidants, no surprisingly tender moments. I remember the names of flora and fauna of Prokaryon more than I do Rod's children. When interacting with the colony, it feels like he's putting one foot in front of the other. He's just meeting expectations. I think this is on purpose, that we're supposed to feel that he's burnt out but unable to stop caring, so I respect the decision, but it really does lead you to think the people don't really matter. Compare this to  A Door Into Ocean . There's that incredible scene when Spinel begins to turn purple on account of the breath microbes. It pulls the disparate elements of the story—the culture of the Sharers, the unique ecology of the world, the struggle to accept change, and the challenge of identity—into one neat, tense, heartbreaking moment. A moment that ends with him finally, and deeply, connecting with one of the Sharers. Everything comes together. I didn't read the back copy before dipping in, so I didn't even know which direction to look for potential tension. When it kicked in, it was immediate and rage-inducing but somewhat tired. We already watched Shora struggle against invaders intent on plundering the planet for its resources. The scale/intent was just a little larger here. Still, it worked. I was engaged, even if the villain was a bit one-dimensional with unclear motives and kind of lazy signaling by way of being marginally abusive towards his dog. The many pages of Brother Rod marveling over Prokaryon had worked: even if he and his colony escaped unharmed, financially or otherwise, I'd still have raged over the planet's destruction. How would they save the Prokaryon? I hope you'll understand my confusion when, with about a hundred pages to go, the plot spins off in a brand-new direction. This direction isn't terrible; it's so fascinating that I had to talk to someone about it immediately. I tracked down my husband and gave him a summary of the book, so we could chew on this new ideological plot. From then on, my husband regularly asked for updates on the novel, and with every new piece of information, we'd chat for a little while about the possibilities/implications. But for as much as I liked it, it was a lot to cover in a short amount of time. And this speed somewhat lessened the topic. Ideas dripping with nuance were explained in totality in a paragraph or two; unique experiences burst onto the scene with such rapidity that it made them feel a little ... goofy. Perhaps even hokey, despite the backbone of the concept being cool af. And the way this ideological plot is quickly wrapped up leaves some questions large enough that they could very well be plot holes. And this is my primary concern with the novel. There's a ton here, and much of it is good, but it feels, to me, more like a (highly polished) draft than a finished novel, because it seems to be lacking in the way that drafts often struggle: the pacing is off and too much time is spent on setup; the plot is muddied and without a solid direction; the tension comes out of nowhere; the villain is one-dimensional and feels separate from the story; the character's relationships take up considerable space but lack depth; there are too many characters with no real impact. Now that's a huge list of flaws, but none of this is damning. I'm glad I read The Children Star. It just means The Children Star doesn't stand up to its predecessors. But its predecessors were incredible. It's hard to match that level of success. Though this is a funny declaration because I've seen plenty of reviews say The Children Star was a step up from Daughter Of Elysium. I'm guessing there's one reason for this: unlike Daughter Of Elysium, The Children Star offers a solid tension arc. Some people want/need that to connect to a story the way I want deep characterization and rich relationships. So I guess it's all a matter of preference.  Regardless of your preference, though, I suggest continuing Slonczewski's series. While everything is technically standalone, seeing all the pieces connect and the ideas stack is fascinating.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    This is good sci-fi that makes you think, without being all spaceship and lasers. I didn't realize this book is one of a loose series until after I read it. It stands alone wonderfully. What struck me the most is the refreshing change of pace from my usual fare. There is a growing time pressure that ramps up through the book, but it never quite hits that ticking time bomb artificiality so often used to push a book forward. In fact, even though there are some horrifying moments, and very front an This is good sci-fi that makes you think, without being all spaceship and lasers. I didn't realize this book is one of a loose series until after I read it. It stands alone wonderfully. What struck me the most is the refreshing change of pace from my usual fare. There is a growing time pressure that ramps up through the book, but it never quite hits that ticking time bomb artificiality so often used to push a book forward. In fact, even though there are some horrifying moments, and very front and centre debate of big picture ethics and alien life forms, the real alien is the reader. Everything that is everyday normal for the characters is written wonderfully to be exactly that - everyday. There's a great variety of characters and concepts with someone/someplace for everybody to identify with. It's a four star book for me, mainly because the ending was a little too realistic perhaps. I think I just like my fairy tale endings. Well worth reading.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Avani

    I am stunned I'd never heard of this before an old man handed it to me at a party a few months back. It is hard SF, with aliens and sentient AI (and a significant subplot on the nature of intelligence) and planetary exploration and post-human society. The author is a working biologist, and it shows beautifully in her realistic portrayal of scientists. The characterization in general is superb, as is the interplay between detailed biological exploration, terraforming, social justice, and politicki I am stunned I'd never heard of this before an old man handed it to me at a party a few months back. It is hard SF, with aliens and sentient AI (and a significant subplot on the nature of intelligence) and planetary exploration and post-human society. The author is a working biologist, and it shows beautifully in her realistic portrayal of scientists. The characterization in general is superb, as is the interplay between detailed biological exploration, terraforming, social justice, and politicking. The only major complaint I have is that the antagonist is completely irredeemable. I imagine he has a pointy mustache that he twirls, Bond-villain style. His part in the story is not huge, so it doesn't detract too much from the overall experience.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    I HAVE read this one! But I can't remember what I thought of it! :laff: I HAVE read this one! But I can't remember what I thought of it! :laff:

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jack Deighton

    This is another of the author’s tales of the Fold, an interstellar polity which we have met before in A Door Into Ocean and Daughter of Elysium. Here, a prion plague known as the creeping is devastationg the human population of the planet L’li. A L’iite child called ’jum G’hana is rescued by Brother Rhodonite and taken to Prokaryon, a planet where the living things all contain ring-shaped structures in their body plans and chromosomes. Zoöids are animal-like, phycoöids resemble plants, phycozoöid This is another of the author’s tales of the Fold, an interstellar polity which we have met before in A Door Into Ocean and Daughter of Elysium. Here, a prion plague known as the creeping is devastationg the human population of the planet L’li. A L’iite child called ’jum G’hana is rescued by Brother Rhodonite and taken to Prokaryon, a planet where the living things all contain ring-shaped structures in their body plans and chromosomes. Zoöids are animal-like, phycoöids resemble plants, phycozoöids display plant and animal traits, while the microzoöids are microbes. The planet is also rich in arsenic. Humans need to be life-shaped to survive there, a process which works better the younger you are. Adults have almost insuperable difficulties in being adapted. ’jum G’hana is on the cusp. She does, however, have a facility for numbers, especially primes which she calls ‘orphans.’ Sarai, a Sharer lifeshaper working on Prokaryon, connects the tale more directly to Slonzcewski’s previous novels of the fold, which were both set on the Sharer’s home planet of Elysium. Sarai’s adoption of ’jum G’hana as a co-worker has ramifications later in the book in whose initial stages the narrative flow is cramped somewhat by the intrusiveness of the author’s information dumping. While there is a diversion into interstellar politics Slonzcewski’s interest in The Children Star is on the biology of Prokaryon. Tumblerounds have a triplex DNA and reproduce by splitting three ways down the middle. Microzoöids contain a brain’s worth of data in a single cell and are capable of ‘infecting’ humans. This is the main engine of the plot and an explicit threat to Prokaryon. The Fold’s authority debates whether or not to destroy Prokaryon’s indigenous life-forms (by a process known as boiling.) That at least some of these turn out to be intelligent would be their saving. It’s all readable enough - and more so than Daughter of Elysium. To have such a focus on biology at the microscopic level is an unusual trope in SF, but Slonzcewski is herself a biologist so that isn’t too surprising. The characters tend a bit to the stereotypical, however.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Darryl

    The Children Star turned out to be surprisingly engaging. It seems to straddle the target reader market of teenagers and adults. I liked the concepts presented concerning biology, but wish some of the other characters had more detail and development. The Elysium world that Joan Slonczewski created has interested me enough to look at other books from her.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ashley Nichols

    It reminds me of when my daughter came home from the sandbox with the worse case of these huge lice I’d ever seen. When I started to wash her hair she said, “no mama, don’t hurt the king.” If enough small organisms think at us as one can we hear them? If you raised a personal microscopic colony of things what would kind of society would they be like? Everyone should have to read this book.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Alex Paul

    Innovative. Biological approach to sci-fi -- I like it!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    While I didn't realize it at the time I ordered this book, The Children Star is yet another book occurring in the Door Into Ocean universe. Happily, it seems to be the book immediately following Daughter of Elysium, however, it has also been some time since I've read Daughter, so it took me a while to remember what I'd learned from Daughter about the characters, races, and planets that were also mentioned in The Children Star. Then again, this isn't exactly a sequel, so perfect memory of such wa While I didn't realize it at the time I ordered this book, The Children Star is yet another book occurring in the Door Into Ocean universe. Happily, it seems to be the book immediately following Daughter of Elysium, however, it has also been some time since I've read Daughter, so it took me a while to remember what I'd learned from Daughter about the characters, races, and planets that were also mentioned in The Children Star. Then again, this isn't exactly a sequel, so perfect memory of such was not a requirement. The basic set-up is this: the needs and demands of the Fold are ever increasing. The L'liites continue to overpopulate every planet they gain a foothold on and are looking for new territory. Valedon continues to demand gemstones. The eternal Elysians need rare earth metals to build their servos and gadgets. Prokaryon has all these. It also has its own fascinating (and highly toxic to both humans and unaltered sentient machines) ecology, in such rigid order as to strongly suggest the presence of some managing intelligence. An intelligence which cannot be found. As I've come to expect from Slonczewski, there are a lot of fascinating (and horrifying) ideas to be mulled in this book. The way we discount the intelligence of others when it doesn't look like ours. The way our strongest principles can be quickly cast aside in the face of economic "necessity." How financing the destructive whims of one very rich man seems to always take precedence over the suffering and death of millions of the poor. There are also some interesting thoughts about various obsessions over purity within religious orders. I really enjoyed this book. Not quite as spot-on perfect as Door Into Ocean, but more tightly edited than Daughter of Elysium. Its slowly gathering momentum made it very difficult to put down in the second half! Highly recommended.

  15. 4 out of 5

    John Loyd

    The Children Star (1998) ~200 pages by Joan Slonczewski. I read the serialized version in the April, May, June, July/Aug 1998 issues of Analog. Discussing the plot of part 4, is a spoiler for part 1. So I'll stick to the basics. Brother Rod is helping a colony on the world of Prokaryon, a world that requires the settlers to be life shaped in order to survive. The life shaping is much easier for children than adults, weeks vs. years. The story starts with Rod going through the plague ravaged city The Children Star (1998) ~200 pages by Joan Slonczewski. I read the serialized version in the April, May, June, July/Aug 1998 issues of Analog. Discussing the plot of part 4, is a spoiler for part 1. So I'll stick to the basics. Brother Rod is helping a colony on the world of Prokaryon, a world that requires the settlers to be life shaped in order to survive. The life shaping is much easier for children than adults, weeks vs. years. The story starts with Rod going through the plague ravaged city of Reyo on L'li, saving orphaned babies, that would otherwise die, to become new colonists. The biology of Prokaryon is strange with triplex DNA, and things like wheelgrass, singing trees, hoopsnakes, tumblerounds, four eyes, etc. No intelligence can be found, but the singing trees and wheelgrass are in bands, almost as if cultivated, and the weather is uniform. Are there some hidden masters. The first part focuses on the hardships of surviving on Prokaryon, the second introduces a faction that want to cleanse, wiped of indigenous life, a continent so that it can be terraformed. Meaning that Rod's colony will have to move. The main storyline is the fight to save the colony, and the search for intelligence on Prokaryon. The book is strewn with ideas, such as sentients, intelligent machines that become self-aware and earn their freedom. Very interesting. Full of lots of likeable characters. Good read.

  16. 5 out of 5

    TammyJo Eckhart

    Some have described this novel as slow to start then rapid to conclude but I disagree. I think the pace was was excellent, we get enough time to build empathy for Brother Rod and 'jum to care about what happens to them and to pray that they can save the worlds threatened by greed and curiosity. This is the third book set in Slonczewski's Fold universe after "A Door Into Ocean" and "Daughter of Elysium." This is a universe where the only life is human, perhaps descended from Earth but this is so f Some have described this novel as slow to start then rapid to conclude but I disagree. I think the pace was was excellent, we get enough time to build empathy for Brother Rod and 'jum to care about what happens to them and to pray that they can save the worlds threatened by greed and curiosity. This is the third book set in Slonczewski's Fold universe after "A Door Into Ocean" and "Daughter of Elysium." This is a universe where the only life is human, perhaps descended from Earth but this is so far in the past but that it is difficult to know, or creatures that humans create... until they go to Prokaryon. Unlike previous colonizations where terraforming was the standard practice, events in "Daughter of Elysium" has made this unacceptable. In order to live on Prokaryon humans must be modified and this process can take years and years as well as a lot of money. Money, power, and population pressures are sadly still the driving forces of humanity in this universe. If you have not read "Daughter of Elysium' you will not understand this book, some of the characters are the same and the background of political and social changes makes sense if you have read the previous book. It isn't as necessary to have read "A Door Into Ocean" but you'll understand the world better if you do. I can't wait to read "Brain Plague" next.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Judi Moore

    The puff on the front of this 1998 novel says 'this novels fireworks in the final third admirably justify its long, slow fuse.' Absolutely accurate. The SF involved here is hard, and quirky, and beautifully thought through. But Joan Slonczewski hasn't neglected characterisation: the protagonists have truly original problems to overcome and one cares about how they're going to do that and how it will all turn out. The ending is unexpected, neat and satisfying (well, it was for me anyway!). If you The puff on the front of this 1998 novel says 'this novels fireworks in the final third admirably justify its long, slow fuse.' Absolutely accurate. The SF involved here is hard, and quirky, and beautifully thought through. But Joan Slonczewski hasn't neglected characterisation: the protagonists have truly original problems to overcome and one cares about how they're going to do that and how it will all turn out. The ending is unexpected, neat and satisfying (well, it was for me anyway!). If you like your SF hard and thoughtful you'll enjoy what she writes. If you found this review interesting and/or useful you might like my fiction. See below.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ward Bond

    SUMMARY: Only children can colonize the planet Prokaryon, genetically modified for a world whose chemistry kills unaltered adults. A colony of orphans struggle to survive, and find the planet hides strange secrets. ***** The Prokaryan landscape is ordered, as if by unseen gardeners, "hidden masters" no human has ever found. The weather behaves as though designed to meet the planet's needs. When fire threatens a forest, a rainstorm appears, only to dissipate when the fire is put out. ***** When a SUMMARY: Only children can colonize the planet Prokaryon, genetically modified for a world whose chemistry kills unaltered adults. A colony of orphans struggle to survive, and find the planet hides strange secrets. ***** The Prokaryan landscape is ordered, as if by unseen gardeners, "hidden masters" no human has ever found. The weather behaves as though designed to meet the planet's needs. When fire threatens a forest, a rainstorm appears, only to dissipate when the fire is put out. ***** When a ruthless corporation threatens to terraform Prokaryon, to recreate it for "normal" humans, there is a sudden urgency to find the intelligent life form directing the planet. For only then can the colonists save their world-and reveal unexpected possibilities for the human future.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ideath

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. The blurb on the front cover warns of a slow start, but i didn't think the pacing was problematic. Slonczewski tackles a lot of big issues in this one, which is great and what i love her for; the writing itself is about par for her, enjoyable with occasional eye-rolling moments. I have problems with the resolution, which seems slightly contradictory (if the cultures of the minimen diverge so greatly and evolve so quickly, how did they possibly get it together to tightly manage an entire planet's The blurb on the front cover warns of a slow start, but i didn't think the pacing was problematic. Slonczewski tackles a lot of big issues in this one, which is great and what i love her for; the writing itself is about par for her, enjoyable with occasional eye-rolling moments. I have problems with the resolution, which seems slightly contradictory (if the cultures of the minimen diverge so greatly and evolve so quickly, how did they possibly get it together to tightly manage an entire planet's biosphere consistently for long periods of time?) -- but it doesn't ruin the whole experience. I think i am turning into a Slonczewski completist, and that part of me was excited to see that this book was set in the same universe, many years later, as A Door into Ocean.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ed

    Little did I know what I was in for when first this book fell in my lap. It looked interesting and thought it might be worth a read. it definitely was worth it. Joan's imagination surpasses many of the sci-fi writers out there. Both the characters and story line were well thought out and the pacing of the book was excellent. When I finished the book, with great enthusiasm, I went online to find out more about the author and any other books she has written. She has three other books set in the sa Little did I know what I was in for when first this book fell in my lap. It looked interesting and thought it might be worth a read. it definitely was worth it. Joan's imagination surpasses many of the sci-fi writers out there. Both the characters and story line were well thought out and the pacing of the book was excellent. When I finished the book, with great enthusiasm, I went online to find out more about the author and any other books she has written. She has three other books set in the same universe, but are not prequels or sequals, which is a blessing. I can now pick up any of the other books and enjoy the story without remembering specifics from this book. Well done!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Marva

    I didn't find out until about half-way through this was the 2nd in a series. Thing is, I didn't feel there was any lack of background information. The book read as a standalone. This isn't a science fiction book for those who like space opera. There's not much space at all. It was definitely interesting enough to hold my attention throughout. I recommended it to a writer friend who specializes in con-langs (constructed languages) and non-human, yet not unfamiliar, aliens. The author knows her biolo I didn't find out until about half-way through this was the 2nd in a series. Thing is, I didn't feel there was any lack of background information. The book read as a standalone. This isn't a science fiction book for those who like space opera. There's not much space at all. It was definitely interesting enough to hold my attention throughout. I recommended it to a writer friend who specializes in con-langs (constructed languages) and non-human, yet not unfamiliar, aliens. The author knows her biology (she's a professor and author in the field), so it was internally consistent and quite an extrapolation of what intelligent life is.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ushan

    Over the last few weeks I read or re-read three novels and about 50 short stories by Ursula K. Le Guin, which made a great positive impression upon me. The only other woman science fiction writer I've read in the last few years was Lois McMaster Bujold. I knew that Slonczewski is also a woman science fiction writer, so I checked out this book. However, the quality of writing is so poor, the characters so flat and the plot so illogical that I stopped reading after the first few chapters and skimm Over the last few weeks I read or re-read three novels and about 50 short stories by Ursula K. Le Guin, which made a great positive impression upon me. The only other woman science fiction writer I've read in the last few years was Lois McMaster Bujold. I knew that Slonczewski is also a woman science fiction writer, so I checked out this book. However, the quality of writing is so poor, the characters so flat and the plot so illogical that I stopped reading after the first few chapters and skimmed the rest.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Samantha

    I liked this book more than the second in the series, and almost as much as the first, Door into Ocean. The setting was intriguing, lots of strange creatures and mysteries. I didn't really think much of any of the characters, Brother Rod is kinda a dope, but it was still really good. LIke the other books I've ready by Slonczewski, I finished it in less than a week because it was so captivating. I liked this book more than the second in the series, and almost as much as the first, Door into Ocean. The setting was intriguing, lots of strange creatures and mysteries. I didn't really think much of any of the characters, Brother Rod is kinda a dope, but it was still really good. LIke the other books I've ready by Slonczewski, I finished it in less than a week because it was so captivating.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Steven

    In some ways this hearkens back to Asimov's puzzle stories in "I, Robot," with the central questions of the plot being "Where is the intelligent life on Prokaryon?" and then "What can it offer humanity?" Unfortunately, that's not enough to make up for thin characterization, unremarkable prose and a predictable plot. In some ways this hearkens back to Asimov's puzzle stories in "I, Robot," with the central questions of the plot being "Where is the intelligent life on Prokaryon?" and then "What can it offer humanity?" Unfortunately, that's not enough to make up for thin characterization, unremarkable prose and a predictable plot.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Darceylaine

    Super engaging, couldn't put it down. I love how she raises these ethical issues about the nature of life and oppression. The only reason I didn't rate it higher is that the ending is a little too tidy, as if she ran out of time or just wanted to get on to the next book. Super engaging, couldn't put it down. I love how she raises these ethical issues about the nature of life and oppression. The only reason I didn't rate it higher is that the ending is a little too tidy, as if she ran out of time or just wanted to get on to the next book.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Michael Carlson

    Wish I had read this before reading Brain Plague as it sets up the basis of that setting. Last book of the Elysium cycle I had left to read. Found it hidden on a shelf and zipped through it in about two days. Liked it, but a few thing about it kept me from really liking it.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jerry

    The Children Star has a great premise, a lack of offensive content, and plenty to offer to readers; however, somewhat shoddy writing brings it down a bit. Science fiction/fantasy fans will probably at least moderately enjoy it, but those who prefer other genres should probably stay away.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Julia

    I read this without knowing it was the last book of three, but it has definately become one of my all time favorites. The scope of the world Slonczewski has created is amazing.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Terry

    The problems of colonizing a planet that has a microzoid race.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Espana Sheriff

    Good book, full of interesting concepts, but lacked the magic of A Door into Ocean.

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