Scientific treatise (with charts and diagrams) melds with character study and social commentary in Hugo-winner Egan's stand-alone steampunk SF novel. On a faraway world with technology and culture roughly analogous to those of our Victorian era, the female polymorph Yalda studies the properties of light and discovers a celestial object that seems certain to strike her planet. A society that harshly subjugates women (easy when childbirth inevitably kills the mother) works against her as she tries to build and launch a rocket that will take her people to safety. Difficult, dense scientific conjecturing makes this a nearly impenetrable read for those lacking physics degrees or superior spatial thinking, but the societal analogy, totally alien culture, and intriguing characters are potent reasons to power through. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 06/27/2011 Release date: 06/01/2011 Genre: Fiction
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