When humankind discovers intelligent life in the Oort Cloud, the first humans to venture beyond the planetary system make contact with an incredibly strange race and their mysterious world. Reprint.
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Hard-science yarn investigating intelligent creatures who inhabit a remote comet-planetoid whose surface temperature (per the title) is 30 degrees above absolute zero--from the author of Timemaster, Martian Rainbow, etc. In 2029, an impoverished and overpopulated Earth, hoping for high-powered help, mounts an expedition to contact the alien ``keracks''--a tiny, shrimplike, hive-minded race who've built cities all over their chilly world. Though ``telebots''--they themselves are much too big and hot to contact the keracks directly--the humans explore the city Camalor in the company of the local genius, wizard Merlene. The native biology, ingeniously, is driven by energy derived from cosmic rays, free radicals, and radioactivity (at this distance, the sun is only a bright star, and photosynthesis won't work). The keracks have a puzzling warlike, medieval, royalist social structure, the reasons for which only slowly become clear. Biochemistry fueled by radioactivity is the key: driven by instinct, the Camalor queen is constructing a hydrogen bomb that will blow the city apart, thus seeding outer space with spores, someday to start a new civilization elsewhere. But can the humans escape the explosion, or save Merlene from her fate? Despite the whiz-bang chemistry and physics, it isn't much of a plot; nor is it clear how life could get started under such conditions, let alone thrive. The indistinguishable characters don't help. Solid fare for Forward fans, then; slim pickings for those desirous of more orthodox novelistic virtues. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.From Publishers Weekly:
This cleverly conceived yet clunkily executed piece by the author of Timemaster is a detailed depiction of a manned mission to a bizarre alien world. In 2009, humans make contact with their first extraterrestrials and 20 years later they send a scientific team to their small, ice-bound planetoid beyond the solar system. Because humans are too big and too hot, tiny remote control robots are used to visit the cities of the "keracks," creatures only a few centimeters high who resemble "large, one-eyed prawns . . . dressed in fancy clothing." In their hostile, airless environment with temperatures near absolute zero (30K), the keracks have developed a complex society with a rich culture suggesting that of Arthurian England (the visitors' prime contact is the female kerack Merlene, wizard of Camalor). The human scientists uncover local thermonuclear mysteries with ominous implications for the future of the kerack race. Although Forward's scientific extrapolation is stunning, the narrative lacks a solid plot and his interchangeable human characters converse in a dialogue that often seems just a vehicle for technical exposition. Even hard-core technophiles will wish that Forward's storytelling skills matched his imagination.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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