Sunday, October 9, 2011

Summertide by Charles Sheffield

Charles Sheffield first appeared on the science fiction scene in 1977.  I read many of his short works in numerous magazines including Analog, Galaxy, Destinies, Amazing and others.  He produced quality traditional science fiction stories.  In spite of liking his short fiction, I never picked up any of his novels.  


Before we went to the beach this summer, I wanted to pick up a paperback book.  I did not want to take my e-reader to the ocean.  While looking over the books at a used book store, I spotted this one.  Seeing it brought back memories of reading his short fiction.  So I decided to pick it up and see if his novel length work was as good as I remember his short fiction.

From Goodreads...It was just before Summertide, the time when the twin planets, Opal and Quake, would orbit closest to their sun, subjecting both - but Quake in particular - to vast tidal forces. And it was to be the most violent Summertide ever, due to the Grand Conjunction of the system's stars and planets, something that happened only every 350,000 years. Access to the unstable Quake was supposed to be prohibited, but some very insistent travelers were determined to make the trip. Professor Darya Lang, who had made a career studying artifacts left by the long-vanished aliens called the Builders, had a hunch that during this unusal Summertide she might find the Builders themselves. Louis Nenda and the Cecropian Atvar H'sial had their own interests in Quake, and would do anything to get there. And Councilor Julius Graves was hunting murderers — if they were hiding on Quake, he needed no one's permission to search for them. 

Planetary Administrators Hans Rebka and Max Perry had no choice but to go to Quake themselves — risking their lives to protect the others — and to learn, just maybe, the secret of Summertide and the Builders . . .

"A well-made puzzle story in the manner of Arthur C. Clarke's Rama books." - The New York Times.

"Summertide" was a great old school story.  At times it reminded me of a Larry Niven story with the concepts.  The mystery of the Builders and the artifacts they left behind are an intriguing back drop for this series.  Sheffield reveals enough to keep you interested.  This is classic storytelling.  He sets up a complete novel while weaving enough into the background that makes you anxious to read the next book in the series.  In many series, the author seems to just stop the story and make you pick up the rest of the books to get a complete story.  Sheffield won me over by making sure that he supplies a complete story while setting the stage for future novels.  

One of the things that surprised me was the characterization.  Sheffield did an above average job of making the characters real.  Some of the characters are stock sf types but most are fully developed.  

The Barclay Shaw cover deserves mention.  Shaw does a fantastic job of showing the planet in turmoil with the ship above it.  It captures the spirit of the story.

I would put "Summertide" in the same class as the works of Poul Anderson.  Both authors are working with similar themes.  Fans of Anderson's work will enjoy this novel.  And you will definitely be looking for the rest of the series.

Sheffield is now on my "must read" list.  Fortunately he wrote many novels (approximately 50) before his death in 2002.  My one regret is that I did not read his novels as the appeared.




3 comments:

adamosf said...

Summertide is the first novel of a series, the others being Divergence, Transcendence Convergence and Resurgence. I have the first 3 in a SFBC omnibus The Heritage Universe, all of which were good. I never read the last 2 which came out several years later.

sorna said...

Great thoughts you got there, believe I may possibly try just some of it throughout my daily life.

Flats for Sale in Sheffield

Francisco Guillermo said...

I really like Charles Sheffield´s novels, I first read his Proteo triology and really felt that he can make a very entertaining story. I have read a couple of other scifi novels and even tough I can recognise some great books in the genre, I can also say that Sheffield wrote some of the most addictive novels I have ever come accross in scifi.