Summertide by Charles Sheffield


Science FictionSummertide by Charles Sheffield

SummertideCharles Sheffield; Ballantine Books 1990WorldCat

There is a small pair of insignificant twin planets. They depend on each other gravitationally, have a short rotation, and when the tides are right each rotation, have extreme seismic reactions. The only unique thing about them is the Umbilical Artifact, left behind by another civilization millions of years earlier. This is one of the few Builder Artifacts around the galaxy that is understood. There are more, but humans and other beings in the galaxy have not fathomed any of their secrets. The Umbilical was built to maintain transportation between Opal and Quake, the two planets.

Hans Rebka is sent to Opal, the more stable of the planets, to bring Max Perry back into the Alliance’s Administration. Perry has buried himself on backwater Opal rather than pursuing a promising career with the Alliance. Strangely, other visitors are coming to the twin planets. There is an unusual lining up of planets and stars in the system that only occurs every 350,000 years. A couple scientists are coming to follow up their studies. A Planetary Councilor is coming to apprehend fugitives that may be hiding. Some interpreters are with the scientists. These are more visitors at once that the planets have had in the last ten years. What will happen will Summertide occurs on Opal and Quake this rotation?

This book started rather slowly, and I put it down a few months ago after the first ten pages or so. I took it off my shelf again rather reluctantly, but I wanted some space faring science fiction rather than the fantasy I’ve been reading recently. It was all I had to read on the airplane, so I couldn’t change my mind. I’m glad. By the end of the first third it started coming together and getting interesting. By the end of the book, I had to see what was happening, what were people hiding, and solve other mysteries presented. While the writing still is a bit convoluted by the end, it is a book that presents a good story. And, of course, is left open ended. There is, I have learned (not to my surprise) a sequel. It probably will be worth finding one of these days.

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