Book Review: Sun of Suns by Karl Schroeder (Three Stars)


Book Review: Sun of Suns (Virga #1) by Karl Schroeder

(Three Stars)

“If the world needed saving it wouldn’t be worth doing it. Everything worthwhile ends up getting stolen by someone evil.

Great new setting for steam-punk science fiction: inside a planet-sized balloon of gases (Virga). All “gravity” is inertial, Local “suns” heat and light small areas of the temperate zone, and the politics and technology is mostly nineteenth century. The characters begin in mystery and opposition but must work together for a greater good. An outsider knows about the evolved technology (and biology) outside the bubble, but her motives and theirs may not coincide. Good plot flow and development. Nice cover art.

“She’s bitter. People enjoy being bitter. It gives them license to act childishly.” “Aren’t you the philosopher.”

Having said that, the narrative seemed appropriate for young readers except for the gratuitous sex. And it was gratuitous, not necessary to plot or character development. (It gave clues to the fate of certain characters.) While mostly only suggestive, its inclusion makes the book unsuitable for younger readers. The three F-bombs.

Quibbles: “No gravity, no pressure.” A multi thousand-foot-wide ball of water inside a multi-thousand-mile ball of breathable gas will have pressure. “Hanging balls of smoke.” No, smoke will disperse just as it does in our atmosphere. “Denouncing the pilot.” Even the same character doesn’t consistently call their leader the Pilot. “A thrust by [redacted 1] took [Redacted 2] through the left bicep. … slicing [redacted 2]’s fingers open to the bone.”  Redacted 2 could not do all the things he subsequentially does. A stray bullet would not fly indefinitely; air and gravity would drag it slower and down. And the big one: “Are they glass?” “Diamond. Re-radiators.” Having established that this world shares the physics of Earth, with certain mentioned exceptions, Schroeder should recognize that diamonds, like coal, burn readily. Poof. No more Sun of Suns.

“That’s a mighty fine dress uniform if I do say so myself.” “One of the things they give you when you get to be admiral.” “Yeah? What else they give you?” “Headaches!”

The rating teetered between three and four stars until the end. The story didn’t end, it just stopped. Schroeder came close to a satisfying conclusion but didn’t deliver. Unless you’re in for five books, you may be dissatisfied with the series opener.

“It wasn’t what you fought that mattered; the only thing that mattered was what you built.”

Perhaps the most serious indictment: I read this five years ago and didn’t recognize it when I read it again.

2 thoughts on “Book Review: Sun of Suns by Karl Schroeder (Three Stars)

  1. Not so sure about the indictment, for a very specific reason. I read Lucifer’s Hammer, a big fat post-apocalyptic novel, and it wasn’t until I got to two specific plot twists that could NOT have been accidental that I realized I had read it – and like it very much – before. Interestingly enough, I had constructed two completely different mental images of the world as I read it.

    Which reminded me every reader gets a different book.

    I was young.

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