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Encounter with Tiber by Buzz Aldrin and John Barnes
Published by Warner Books
Reviewed by Leigh Kimmel
One cannot complain that the authors of this novel lack knowledge of what they write. Buzz Aldrin, one of the Apollo 11 astronauts, knows NASA and spaceflight up, down, sideways and backwards. And John Barnes has won substantial awards in the field of science fiction.
This is not light reading -- one must be willing to work one's way through substantial technological discussion key to appreciating the action of the novel. But it's written with clarity and precision, and the person who is willing to expend effort will be well rewarded.
This is the story of our next century in space -- and of an ancient encounter gone terribly wrong. In the near future, a deep-space radiotelescope detects an ancient signal from Alpha Centauri, sent by the long-dead civilization that once sent a colonization expedition to our Earth. Although that expedition failed, the aliens also sent an Encyclopedia, a device full of their civilization's knowledge, to the Moon.
Unfortunately, the hasty attempt to retrieve the Encyclopedia ends in disaster, with two astronauts dead and the Encyclopedia smashed to pieces. Humanity learns a great deal about information storage and retrieval technology from the bits of the Encyclopedia, but no way to reconstruct the wealth of knowledge that was within it.
However, all is not lost, since there was a second Encyclopedia sent to Mars. It remains for the next generation to send a more considered expedition there and safely discover the Encyclopedia. If they can successfully retrieve the information within it, they can completely revolutionize life on Earth.
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Review posted April 8, 2003
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