cover image The Clockwork Rocket

The Clockwork Rocket

Greg Egan. Night Shade (, $24.99 (344p) ISBN 978-1-59780-227-7

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.)