enhanced] DD-B

Book Note: John Barnes, The Sky So Big and Black

I read this book about 12-Dec-2003. This is the first time I've read this book. The book is copyright 2002. This note was last modified Monday, 19-May-2014 16:46:33 PDT.

This is book 4 of the "The Century Next Door" series.

This note contains spoilers for the book.


This is in a universe he's used before, going back to Orbital Resonance. This is the 4th book in that continuity. People get infected with memes, viruses that take over humans, and the meta-meme One True runs earth, with Resuna installed in each person there. So far they've mostly kept it off Mars, but there are psychiatrists everywhere whose main job is to look for signs of it, and the Defense Forces blast the solar sail probes that One True keeps sending.

When a person is memed, the shrinks can erase their memory back to before it happened, and with a few other tricks that mostly removes the meme. They do lose some memories (usually they get taped telling their own story, so they can learn that part of their life in their own words), and they may lose talents (some people apparently have the ability to learn something very well once; if the period is erased, they lose the skill, and can't learn it again).

A lot of it's a coming-of-age story (and indeed she achieves her Formal Adulthood) for Terpsichore Melpomene Murray. She (and her father) are "ecospectors", who go out and look for volatiles, and also sometimes engage in planting and such. Like prospectors, working independently and out in the wilderness, but working on the terraforming. The background society is first-rate.

The other main character is a police psychiatrist. The big nasty action is the "Sunburst", some sort of major solar flare event which messes up lots of the electronics, kills lots of people directly with radiation and more with aftereffects—and is followed instantly by the heaviest-ever batch of meme carriers from One True on Earth, so may possibly be an artificial event. There's a lot of survival and disaster recovery stuff before Teri ends up getting memed—which puts her in the care of the doctor.

The doctor has his own problems, and the meme situation is nastier than it looks this time; One True is allowing more individuality, and Resuna is evolving. And the doctor gets wiped himself, and Teri needs to get wiped a second time, and the doctor has to give up psychiatry (three memings and you're out), and the time sequences get very confused with both characters getting wiped now and then.

All in all this is an excellent book, even if I do feel the structure is a little unbalanced. Given the state things are left in at the end, the meme war is going to continue and get even more exciting, and I'm looking forward to hearing more about it.

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David Dyer-Bennet