Thursday, August 27, 2009

Singularity's Ring - By Paul Melko

Singularity's Ring is the story of Apollo Papadopulo. Apollo is training to become the captain of the soon to be completed starship Consensus. This is a future where the world is oddly changed from what we know today. The story takes place twenty years after the Exodus, when the vast majority of humans, who lived interfaced with an souped up version of the world wide web know as the Community, vanished. The Community left behind a globe circling space station known as the Ring, and several half finished interstellar space ships. No one knows for sure what happened to them. Were they all vaporized by some accident? Did they create a singularity and ascend to some higher level of being?

The humans who were left after the Exodus rejected living in an all inclusive technological link, but they wanted some of the enhanced data gathering, and problem solving, and intelligence the link provided. To get this they use bioengineering to alter humanity, so that each "person" is a pod made up of more then one individual. Pods use a combination of pheromones, and direct chemical messages passed when they touch special pads on their hands, to think and act as one entity.

Apollo is a quint, a pod of five individuals- Storm. Meda, Quant, Manuel, Moria. Storm is male, he is strong and athletic, Moria is female, she is brilliant, Meda is also female, she is a natural communicator and negotiator, Quant is also female, she lives and breathes math, and Manuel is male, he is dexterous. Each one is a separate human being with their own thoughts and motivations, but they are also part of a whole that is greater than the sum of their parts.

While on a cold weather survival test in the Rockies, that is part of the screening process for the Starship Captain's program, Apollo and several of the other pods are caught in an avalanche. Apollo only survived because of quick thinking on Storm's part, and the possible intervention of a talking Grizzly Bear. Storm's actions also save most of the members of the second pod. Instead of being reward for this Apollo is sent home to the farm where they were raised for a period of enforced rest. When the individual members of the pod compare notes, and start to investigate the accident things don't add up. It looks like the avalanche was deliberately set up to kill or break-up one or more of the pots in the captain's program. No one believes Storm's account of meeting bears who have pod like pheromones and touch pads

Shortly after this Apollo meets Malcom Leto the sole surviving member of the Community. He had been attached to medical equipment that was repairing brain damage when the Singularity happened, and so was left behind. Leto romances and seduces Meda. He convinces her to to prove her love by letting him install a computer port in her head. He has ulterior motives and Meda escapes before he can use her to start to build a new Community.

Various other things happen and Apollo is sent for a few months training on the space station where the starships are being built. This should be their dream come true, but it turns into a disaster. The pod begins to suspect that someone is trying to kill them. The more they learn the more they realize that many things about their life are not what they thought they were. Most pods are made up of two or three individuals. Quints like Apollo are rare and experimental. Apollo may be more experimental than the law allows. Storm may be able to talk to modified animals. Manuel's body has been modified for zero gravity, his feet can also be used as hands, Quint's brain seems to have been changed so she can see and feel paths needed to fly a ship through space. She is also autistic, if she had not been raised in the circle of her pod she would not be able to function on her own. Moria and Meda also have aspects of their personalities that make they unusual.

Apollo is surrounded by questions. Was the accident in the Rockies was planned to set things in motion so they would meet Leto. Does someone wants a pod with the ability to use Community technology so they can access the abandon Ring. Who is tinkering with bear genes to create pods of inteligent Grizzlies and why?

Singularity's Ring is a great read. The universe of the book is fresh and intriguing. The plot has enough twists and turns to keep even the most jaded reader guessing what is going to happen next. The story is told in alternating chapters by the five members of the pod that makes up Apollo Papadopulos so the reader gets to know each one's hopes and fears from the inside. This lets the reader get a feel for what it would be like to be an individual, who is also one part of another person.

This is Melko's first novel, although I believe he has published several pieces of short fiction. I'm really looking forward to seeing what he does next.

Violence - moderate
Sexuality - little to none


Kimber An said...

Oh, this sounds like one my husband would like. Great job, Mary!

Mfitz said...

This is a very character driven story. I think any one who likes interesting character interaction, even folks who think of themselves as "hard" SF phobic would enjoy the book. It is very approachable even for folks who don't read lots of SF.