Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Leaping to the Stars

By David Gerrold

After Jumping Off the Planet and Bouncing Off the Moon, Charles and his two brothers Stinky and Doug are now Leaping to the Stars with their fugitive computer HARLIE that is disguised as a toy monkey. And once again they are on the run as various factions are determined to gain possession of HARLIE and the power that it can deliver. So they are pretty much forced to leave the moon and decide on Outbeyond, a struggling settlement on a planet in a different star system. Problem is, due to the state of crisis on Earth, it will be a one-way trip with no chance of return. And no guarantee of survival once they get there. Plus the only reason the Outbeyond colonists are willing to take the fugitives is that they also want the HARLIE unit, which could be the key to the colony's survival on a hostile and dangerous and isolated alien world.

Currently this series is referred to as a trilogy, which leads the reader to the assumption that Charles and the rest will reach their destination and have all sorts of adventures in their brave new world. At least that's what I thought. So I was disappointed that this book is solely concerned with the journey and not the arrival. Once the author gets his players off the moon and resuming their journey, that's all the further they get. The rest of the story is situated on the colony ship headed to Outbeyond. So that was a let down.
This story mainly focuses on Charles' growing pains as he learns to negotiate life on the ship. His older brother and younger brother are merely bit players in this story as are his mom (the dad got left behind on the moon), popping up occasionally to offer bits of advice and wisdom. Even the HARLIE unit makes only brief appearances and has a few boring philosophical discussions with Charles. Speaking of philosophical discussions, the book is loaded with them, a real bonus if you like that sort of thing. I don't and found them tedious and sometimes preachy.
Anyway, the main thrust of the book becomes the conflict between Charles and a large group of passengers who are a bunch of religious zealots. They feel that the HARLIE unit is a tool of the devil and that Charles is its pawn. At first they try to convert Charles and when that doesn't work, they organize a mutiny.
I tried to like this book, but what I really wanted to read was a book about settlers on a new world, not about dissension between a bunch of people stuck on a spaceship. Still parts of it were pretty interesting and engaging even if the story ends before they ever arrive at Outbeyond.

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