The Highest Frontier by Joan Slonczewski
It’s been about a decade since Brain Plague, Joan Slonczewski’s last novel, came out, but I’d bet good money that more people instead remember the author for a novel that’s by now, unbelievably, already 25 years old — the wonderful and memorable A Door into Ocean, which won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel. Now, ten years after her last novel, Joan Slonczewski presents The Highest Frontier, another insightful exploration of hard SF concepts, married to a thrilling plot and filled with believable and fascinating characters.
The Highest Frontier is one of those novels that kicks into high gear right from the beginning, throwing a ton of new concepts and terms at the reader and then gradually filling in bits of inf... Read More
Joan Slonczewski(1956- )
Joan Lyn Slonczewski is a microbiologist at Kenyon College and a science fiction writer. She is the first since Fred Pohl to earn a second John Campbell award for best science fiction novel, “The Highest Frontier” (2012); her previous winner was “A Door into Ocean” (1987). “The Highest Frontier” invents a college in a space habitat financed by a tribal casino and protected from deadly ultraphytes by Homeworld Security. According to Alan Cheuse at NPR, her book invents “a worldwide communications system called Toy Box that makes the iPhone look like a Model-T Ford.” Slonczewski’s classic “A Door into Ocean” depicts an ocean world run by genetic engineers who repel an interstellar invasion using nonviolent methods similar to Tahrir Square. In her book “Brain Plague,” intelligent microbes invade human brains and establish microbial cities. She also authors with John W. Foster the leading microbiology textbook, Microbiology: An Evolving Science (W. W. Norton). Learn more at Joan Slonczewski’s blog.
The Highest Frontier by Joan Slonczewski
The Elysium Cycle — (1986-2000) Publisher: A Door into Ocean is the novel upon which the author’s reputation as an important SF writer principally rests. A ground-breaking work both of feminist SF and of world-building hard SF, it concerns the Sharers of Shora, a nation of women on a distant moon in the far future who are pacifists, highly advanced in biological sciences, and who reproduce by parthenogenesis — there are no males — and tells of the conflicts that erupt when a neighboring civilization decides to develop their ocean world, and send in an army.
Still Forms on Foxfield — (1980) Publisher: Fleeing the final war that would destroy Earth’s civilization, a small group of Friends — Quakers — found refuge on the uncharted planet they named Foxfield. Somehow they managed to survive, with the aid of the bizarrely gifted native life-form, the Commensals — and, even more extraordinarily, they kept up the practice of their gentle but demanding beliefs. Then, after nearly a century of silence, Earth contacted them — human civilization had miraculously survived the war and had spread out to the stars, flourishing to an undreamed-of richness. And the Friends of Foxfield were a part of it — whether they agreed or not.
The Wall Around Eden — (1989) Publisher’s Weekly: Two decades after a nuclear war, small enclaves survive the destruction of the ozone layer, somewhat protected by walls of air established by the alien floating globes that the radiation-contaminated humans call angelbees. Isabel Garcia-Chase comes of age in Gwynwood in what was formerly Pennsylvania, rebelling against the angelbees, who communicate with humans only through a now-dying Contact and forbid the use of much technology, including radios. The enclaves, the largest of which is in Australia, keep in touch with each other through the angelbee-operated Pylons which provide instantaneous transmission. While Isabel and others believe the angelbees either caused the devastation or at least exacerbated it, the Quakers who mostly populate Gwynwood see them as saviors. After an act of rebellion, Isabel and her new husband, Daniel Scattergood, are taken into the Pylon and they begin to learn more about the aliens. Slonczewski (Still Forms on Foxfield) writes a thoughtful and unusual after-the-holocaust novel, strongly infused with the Quaker outlook. Its slow but careful pace rewards the reader with such beautifully developed characters as Peace Hope Scattergood, born without hands and a talented painter, and a hopeful view of humanity and its future.