NEVERNESS by David Zindell

Voyager/Harper Collins, 1994. ISBN 0-586-20536-5

"Science fiction" gives the wrong idea about a book like this. Perhaps an epic novel set in the future would be a better description.

The story could stand alone if it was set in the past or the present but Zindells scientific best guesses about life in a galaxy and on a planet in the year 2929 give it a fascinating gloss.

The ideas are fun and surprising and it is rather like seeing the excellent but dry book by Michio Kaku ,"Visions" (a summary of leading research) suddenly coming to life.

As in all good epics there is a hero, Mallory Ringess, illegitimate, in trouble with his uncle, and headstrong enough to be forced into a probably fatal journey of discovery.

The galaxy is a manifold in which he and his ship move by mapping (top)

from one point to the next. Some mappings are well known but he reaches the limits of knowledge beyond which all pilots have been lost.

He gets involved in stealing D.N.A. ("sleling" - a capital offence) from the Alaloi, a people who have returned to Neanderthal bodies and lives, and is himself finally reconstructed on the beautiful blue water planet of Agathange, by a race of master D.N.A. formers who have chosen to live as dolphins, otters and whales.

It doesn't all quite hang together - why don't the people of Neverness know more about human history, or why is a dangerous exploding Supernova that threatens the planet forgotten later in the story - but does it really matter?

The book is wonderful journey through an infinity of possibilities as Zindell the mathematician might put it.

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