The Well of Stars by Robert Reed is the sequel to the 2001 Marrow about the Great Ship and its inhabitants. I remember Marrow fondly, but not in great detail as it was a while ago that I read it, and I was surprised to see a sequel as Marrow seemed to be a self-contained novel.
Mr Reed thinks big with a capital B. The Great Ship is the size of a gas giant, the time-scales involved are enormous and in The Well of Stars, the main adversary is the size of an entire gaseous nebula! The characters have a kind of casual, almost reckless immortality due to their advanced nanotechnology based medical technology, and they have lived for hundred of centuries.
The plot of this book didn’t hold up very well for me. Summary of the timeline (not how the plot is related in the book) (SPOILER!) :
- mean baby alien is banished into a nebula to die
- baby alien survives and grows into a huge, evil, monster – the Polypods
- a refugee from the ship is captured by the Polypods
- the refugee tells Polypods of the rumored creature living within the Great Ship
- Polypods decide to destroy the ship to unleash the creature within, and so undo creation and destroy their own past atrocities (?!?)
- the ship enters the nebula where the Polypods live
- the Polypods attack and almost destroy the ship
- the ship’s inhabitants learn of the Polypods history
- the ship’s inhabitants guilt the Polypod into calling off the attack, but it is too late as the Polypod weapon is already deployed
- some previously un-mentioned things (at least in this book) called the Bleak emerge and fight off the Polypods and take over the ship.
- cliffhanger left open…
The idea of the “stalled creation” of the universe that is the motivation for the Polypods made little sense to me. Also, the obviously intelligent Polypods’ single-minded obsession with the destruction of the universe based on the lies of a single man seemed implausible. With this being the primary conflict of the the book, it was hard to have much emotional attachment to the outcome. In this case, then it was just as well, as the ending is a cliffhanger non-ending that comes out of nowhere to squash a potentially much more satisfying tragic ending. Although once again, the idea of the Polypods being so susceptible to good old Catholic guilt seemed a bit much, and the emergence of the Bleak takes control of the plot totally out of the hands of all of the character in the book so far – a sin against the rules of story structure.
The Well of Stars isn’t bad, it has lots of interesting ideas, but maybe too many to explore meaningful in the space available.