Forge of the Elders

L. Neil Smith, Author
L. Neil Smith, Author Baen Books $25 (544p) ISBN 978-0-671-57859-6
Mass Market Paperbound - 640 pages - 978-0-671-31982-3
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Smith's latest outing combines portions of his previously published Contact and Commune and Converse and Conflict with a never-before-seen sequel. Set in the 21st century, this space opera centers on an interplanetary mission dispatched by the United World Soviet to investigate and mine 5023 Eris, an asteroid that has wandered into our solar system. No sooner do the Marxist-quoting American astronauts land than they are greeted by Ailbraugh Pritsch, one of the many aliens that live within the hollowed-out asteroid, and are dragged inside. Within the confines of the alien orb, the astronauts meet Mr. Thoggosh, the giant ""nautiloid"" in charge of the wandering rock (really a disguised starship). Thoggosh reveals that although he comes from another world, he is a capitalist, in search of the one venture that continues to elude his grasp: the Virtual Drive, which grants its users instantaneous faster-than-light travel. While periodic minor plot developments propel the action, the overall narrative proceeds at glacial speed on the questions of which Earth nation will wipe out the others and claim the asteroid for its own, and of whether Thoggosh & Co. will ever meet ""the Predecessors,"" the creators of the Virtual Drive. Only Smith's less-demanding fans will likely take to this mishmash featuring tired communism jokes and frat-boy space sex. (Apr.)
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