Thursday, February 10, 2011


Book Review : Singularity
Author : Bill DeSmedt
My Rating : 2 out of 5 stars

In June 1908, there was a meteor impact in Tungaska, Siberia. This is the largest known impact on land, as powerful as 1000 atom bombs and devastating millions of trees in a 2500 sq km area. It's sheer luck that this was in an isolated area in Siberia, else the consequences would have been truly horrific.

There have been many alternate theories about the cause, including a crash of an alien spaceship. One theory, with little scientific backing, is this event was due to a subatomic black hole that passed through the Earth. There are many problems with this hypothesis. Can black holes be that small ? Can they be stable if they are this small ? How can such a small black hole get created in the first place ? If it was created during the early period following the Big Bang, how did it survive for this long ? That's for theoretical physicists to debate.

But one simple reason for opposing this theory is, lack of an exit event. If indeed a black hole passed through the Earth, then there would have been another explosion as it exited the Earth. Well, author Bill DeSmedt, has an answer. The black hole never left the Earth ! It's trapped inside and slowly eating the Earth away !!

Look, most science fictions have to bend the known laws of Physics, else even a "simple" thing such as inter-galactic travel cannot be used to make a story. So I am willing to play along - but to a limit. The ideas started transcending that limit when some evil Russian plans to "capture" the black hole using magnetohydrodynamics - yeah, look up that term, it's real. They track it's trajectory inside earth, build a trap exactly at the right spot and boom - capture it, just like that. I wish, building particle accelerators was that simple ! And if you think that's bizarre, wait till you find out, why exactly did they want to capture it. Are you ready for the spoiler ? To change history, of course ! To make Russia great again. Whatever.

Actually, that last part about changing history could have been made really interesting. And that's where the book really really really fails miserably. The last few chapters gave me an impression, that even the author was completely confused as to how to tame the weirdness of his own ideas. So many things are left unexplained, may be because it was impossible to explain them.

The characters are as clich├ęd as they can get. A computer hacker who can do pretty much  hack into whatever he feels like. A beautiful female spy, who has lost her parents. A rich Russian with evil intentions. How novel.

Books like this, give Science Fiction a bad name. I have to mention the hilarious awkwardness of the prose.
In the fresh, clean hours after midnight, with the petty interruptions and annoyance of the day fading like dreams at dawn, he essayed prodigies of system design, assembling soaring fairytale architectures of logic, elegance, and power from dry dust of global variables and reserved keywords.
DEEP TIME. Its texture is the granular trickle of sand through the fingers, its signature sound, the echoing of footsteps down marble corridors, past doorways opening onto light of other days.
... the cool and quite were all but sepulchral.
Sepulchral ? I know my English is quite bad, but reading a fiction book should not make you feel like appearing for GRE.

This book should have been very good. Mixing spy thriller with science fiction is a tantalizing idea. And it does start well - except of course the forced usage of jargon. And then it just fails. Flat on its face. I have to recommend against reading this book.

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