The Spheres of Heaven – Charles Sheffield (2001)
The sequel to ‘The Mind Pool’ is set much later. Humanity has been forbidden to travel into alien space via the network of wormholes controlled by a Federation of three alien races. This is because humans are deemed to be a violent and volatile species.
The novel begins with a Government official tracking down Chan Dalton to offer him a special assignment.
It would appear that a wormhole gateway has appeared which is unconnected to the alien network and is also accessible by humans.
Ships have been sent through to investigate but none have returned. Would Chan Dalton to be willing to reassemble his old crew and investigate?
What follows is an adventure in another universe where the humans have to deal with both inimical lobster-like aliens and the fundamentalist pacifist beliefs of their own alien crew. In truth, Sheffield could have made more of this internal battle of ideologies but that is a minor flaw. The only other problem with this book is the title, which has no relevance to anything in the text.
Like most of Sheffield’s work, this is highly readable, highly entertaining space opera which contains some excellent characterisation and some complex and interesting aliens, if a tad anthropomorphic. In its way, Sheffield’s work is very traditional, albeit with a modern gloss. It falls very much into the Romantic camp although Sheffield doesn’t shirk on the physics and it never falls into the trough of Star Trek technobollocks. There’s a themic thread of addiction which covers both the humans that have been addicted to various substances and Friday Indigo who becomes a slave to the lobster-folk who can stimulate his pleasure centres directly.
Sheffield left enough open for a sequel here but sadly it would appear that never transpired.