You Are What You Read

Reviews of books as I read them. This is basically a (web)log of books I've read.

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Location: Lawrenceville, Georgia, United States

I am a DBA/database analyst by day, full time father on evenings and weekends.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

The Hammer of God

It's a strange feeling to listen to an audiobook and experience deja vu the whole time. Arthur C. Clarke's The Hammer of God was so familiar, that I finally realized that I must have listened to it before, and forgotten about it.

Robert Singh is a space pilot, and we follow him from Earth to the Moon to Mars, and then he becomes captain of the Goliath, a large ship in Jupiter's orbit to monitor asteroids. When an asteroid is sighted that is headed for Earth, the Goliath is sent to retrieve Atlas, a mass driver, and take it to the asteroid to move it enough so that it will miss the Earth.

Everything goes fine, until just after Atlas begins firing and an accident blows it up. The crew is ready to leave for the Moon or Mars, until David, the ship's AI, points out that the Goliath itself can serve as a mass driver. The crew makes the adjustments, and the asteroid, named Kali, starts moving. It turns out that the explosion was due to a saboteur belonging to a faith called Chrislam, a melding of Christianity and Islam. Before Kali gets close to Earth, pockets of ice start heating up and spewing gases, pushing it off course. But it turns out it doesn't have too much of an effect.

The government of Earth decides to send a nuclear weapon, made from old designs, to blow up Kali into smaller pieces. Unfortunately, the changes in Kali get Goliath stuck, but the bomb still hits the target. But due to unforeseen circumstances, the trigger does not fire since the missile is moving too fast. Kali splits into two pieces from the impact, one pieces misses the Earth, and the other grazes the atmosphere.

The story is filled with science and history. The author tells about the creation of asteroids and their impacts on the Earth. He also talks about the features of Mars and how they got their names.

I found the characters to be so shallow as to be nearly one dimensional. Only Singh has any depth, and it's mostly from his life history. The dialogue is somewhat more interesting. There is a good bit of suspense about how or whether Kali will impact with the Earth, especially with the wrinkle of the doomsday cult. But that part is not fully developed. Clarke is more into the technical details of space travel and asteroids, which he nails. He's a very scientific and detailed writer. The book reads almost like an engaging textbook more so than a scientific novel. Given it's lack of real drama or strong characters, it's only a B-.


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