February 17, 2005

The Ganymede Club by Charles Sheffield

abstract space station asteroid belt planetoid cover artI'd never read Sheffield before, but I found myself in the Twice Sold Tales on University with half an hour to kill before my bus home, and a hankering for some good sci fi. This one looked like it would fit the bill, and did, keeping me entertained for my bus ride home and for a couple of evenings later.

The book opens in 2032 aboard a ship exploring the Saturn system. The crew finds something unexpected. And the book jumps ahead 31 years to introduce another character, this time on Mars. The next chapters jump a few more years to 2066. (I had to sit back and marvel over that far distant year for a minute. It's the year I'll turn 100. :-) More characters are introduced and then one more 6-year jump and the rest of the book proceeds in something like real time in 2072.

That last jump spans The Great War, one which makes the one we call that now look like a minor skirmish.

The characters who play out the main story are Lola Belman, her kid brother Spook, Spook's friend Bat, and a mathematician named Bryce Sonnenberg. Lola is a Haldane, a psychiatrist with better drugs and equipment than have been invented yet. Her brother and his friend are Masters in the Puzzle Network, a kind of intramural logic competition. Bryce is Lola's patient: he's experiencing memories that seem to be of someone else's life.

These four come up against the inheritors of the Saturn explorers from chapter 1 and things get complicated.

There are mysteries galore, and most of them get wrapped up satisfactorily in the end. The one thing that bugged me is that there's no explanation of the unexpected discovery from chapter 1. Well, the "what" is explained, but the "why" and "how" are left quite unexplained. It seems an awfully big coincidence. There is room for a sequel I suppose. Ah. A little web searching reveals that this is the middle book of a sort of trilogy. Sigh. First book is Cold As Ice, third is Dark As Day. Obviously, since I didn't notice this until now, the book works fine as a standalone. Very nice hard sf potboiler. Guess I'll have to track down the others and see what references sailed over my head.

Posted by jeffy at February 17, 2005 01:04 AM

do you suppose that the title relates to Wodehouse's Ganymede club? That was the club that Jeeves and other valets or butlers belonged to. They had to share secrets about their employers as a condition of membership. The club name was because ganymede was cupbearer to the gods in Greek mythology.

Posted by: Anita Rowland at February 17, 2005 06:20 AM