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Summary

With nods to Arthur C. Clarke's Rama series, the real science of Neal Stephenson's Seveneves and a touch of Hugh Howey's Wool, this is a powerful tale of space travel, adventure, discovery and humanity.

In 2088 humankind is at last ready to explore beyond Earth's solar system, and astrophysicist Reggie Straifer knows where we should go. He's discovered a distant anomalous star that appears to defy the laws of physics. It could be a weird natural phenomenon, or it could be alien.

Convoy 7's mission to discern the nature of the star's strange qualities will use vast resources and take centuries, so in order to maintain the genetic talent of the first crew, clones will be used for the expedition. But a clone is not a perfect copy, and each generation has its own quirks, desires, and neuroses.

As the centuries pass, their society changes and evolves, but their mission remains the same: to reach Reggie's mysterious star and explore its origins - and implications.

A mosaic of discovery, Noumenon successfully examines aspects of the human condition with a touch that is both thrilling and poignant.

©2017 Little Lost Stories (P)2017 HarperCollins Publishers

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Reminscent of the best of Foundation

The heart of Noumenon, the reason it works and the most evocative thing about it, is its structure. This is true of both the convoy and the book.

The titular Noumenon is a convoy of nine ships sent to a distant star to analyse anomalous signals. Even with the sub-dimensional FTL travel, it will be a generational mission, over centuries. In order to give the mission the best chance of success, potential crewmembers are analysed and selected, not just for launch, but forever: they will be continually cloned, replaced by themselves, maintaining the balance and make-up of the crew. This single decision has ramifications for the society and the mission down the generations

Like Asimov's early Foundation books (and Bradbury's Martian Chronicles, though the sections here are longer than that book), Noumenon the book presents a series of events of the evolving society, each chapter skipping ahead in time to new characters (albeit familiar from cloning) and showing us how earlier decisions, earlier actions have played out. The solution to a problem in one chapter becomes the cause of the problem in the next, and at each step the characters must solve the problem as best they can for the here and now, with whatever knowledge and limited foresight they have.

Threaded throughout and tying everything together is the convoy's AI, ICC, the only truly consistent crewmember and the one charged with maintaining society and ensuring the success of the mission.

Like Foundation, Noumenon creates such a plausible sequence of events that you stop seeing it as a work of fiction and begin to believe it as a detailed future history. You're pulled along not by seeing what happens to an individual character, but by seeing the ramifications of earlier stories. It's as powerful a work of hard social science fiction as Foundation ever was, and that's the highest recommendation I can give it.

19 of 20 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Very little sci-fi for a si-fi book

Started with a good idea , lost it in the middle and stretched the end.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

sociology not science fiction

An interesting look at a society's evolution but missed many opportunities for good science fiction

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

great multi generational space story

I really liked this story, some very goodnand new ideas (to me anyway)
looking forward to next installment

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Interesting ideas but perhaps not realistic.

So many ideas about social structures and how that will resolve at the interpersonal level. So that is great to read and think about, but they are tarnished by by view that they are not really possible or realistic. Still it has the big picture about learning and expansion and what that means to people. The way to solve the long time scales is one of those clever but unrealistic ideas. So it is forgiven due to it being required to make the plot work at all. Not great, but good enough to get me to buy the next book and still be looking forward to it.

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Read by a robot. Seriously

Reading is automated. Initially liked the setting and direction, even story telling, yet content development quickly devolved into slow moving emotional analysis and group politics. Reading became robotic and automated to the point of inhuman.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

One of the nicest AIs you'll meet, but the humans<br />

This was enjoyable though there's a slight tweeness at times. I think it would be tighter with less obvious spelling out of some situations. But then it also deals really well with a long term societal change and how slight tweaks in a culture can have drastic results.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

great story. lacklustre voice acting

struggled with the voice actors lack of range. There were points where I didn't know which character was talking because of it

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Good performance of some untapped potential

Short version: there is a sequel and I'm not bothered in the slightest.

Long version: This was a good listen but a weak execution of some interesting ideas.

I won't fault the audio experience at all, delivery was good and clear (though I was annoyed that cloned generations had the same accents as their originals, done to help clarity but narratively unlikely).

The premise was great but the execution was weak. There was a lot of telling and less showing. We saw crises unfold but the reasons behind the crises were listed off rather than beong experienced in the story. And ideas of nature vs nurture were under explored.

Really liked the mid point and finale plots but by the last quarter of the book I just wasn't engaged.

Overall just a bit bland - may be better reading it.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Interesting read with the capacity to surprise

This is decibel not a buy-the-numbers novel. Get writing conceit and has a tenancy to zag when think it'll zig. Narration was capable, although if I was being picky the characterisation could have been more varied.

Overall very decent.