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The Children Star (1998)

by Joan Slonczewski

Series: Elysium Cycle (3)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2611080,149 (3.66)9
Only children can colonize the planet Prokaryon, genetically modified for a world whose chemistry kills unaltered adults. A colony of orphans struggle to survive, and find the planet hides strange secrets. ***** The Prokaryan landscape is ordered, as if by unseen gardeners, "hidden masters" no human has ever found. The weather behaves as though designed to meet the planet's needs. When fire threatens a forest, a rainstorm appears, only to dissipate when the fire is put out. ***** When a ruthless corporation threatens to terraform Prokaryon, to recreate it for "normal" humans, there is a sudden urgency to find the intelligent life form directing the planet. For only then can the colonists save their world-and reveal unexpected possibilities for the human future.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
A little difficult - not for the reader like me who can only read a few pages a day - but intriguing, original, worthwhile. The mystery of the plot did take priority, and the development of the characters was done less well ( )
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Jun 6, 2016 |
In [b:A Door into Ocean|121606|A Door Into Ocean|Joan Slonczewski|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1312029708s/121606.jpg|2640708] Slonczewski used the view points of characters from capitalist Valedon to introduce the communal-living, all female pacifists of Shora. The main plot was tension between Valedon's economic coercion and the Sharers' aim to never cause harm, and it culminated in the question of whether aliens (or rather, people with a completely alien view point that would destroy everything one values) were still too human to be harmed. The next book, [b:Daughter of Elysium|121608|Daughter of Elysium|Joan Slonczewski|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1202489024s/121608.jpg|117082], is set thousands of years later, when both the Sharers and Valedon are part of an intergalactic network of treaties and trade. Thousands of years after that comes [b:The Children Star|121607|The Children Star|Joan Slonczewski|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1312055902s/121607.jpg|117081], centered around a small colony of orphans trying to create a life for themselves on an alien planet. Prokaryon is inhospitable to outside life but seems to have no sapient creatures...except that the trees are planted in rows, the mountains crafted in pleasing shapes, and brush fires are immediately extinguished with targeted rain storms. The colonists are convinced that Prokaryon harbors some alien intelligence, but unless they can prove it the entire planet will be terraformed for use by the teaming, starving masses back home.

Slonczewski's characters always have well-drawn interior lives. Their conversations range from philosophy to child care arrangements, with each given as much weight as the other. (And I do love that there are some many different family styles presented in these books, from 1 man& 1 woman with biological children to single parents to adoptive parents to people parenting with friends or same sex lovers to the Elysians, whose children are raised in creches by robots.) The ethics and thought experiments she sets up in her books are even more fascinating. In her first book the reader is asked to consider whether aliens are human; in the next, whether machines are. This book makes the question more difficult still: it introduces us to microbes capable of communicating with or even controlling other living beings, and we must again decide whether these creatures, which live on a time scale in miniature to us but have the power to reshape our minds or very flesh, should have the same rights and respect as given other intelligent beings..

Slonczewski writes incredibly thoughtful, fascinating thought experiments, and powers them with likable characters and enough plot to keep the pages turning. I wish more people read these books! ( )
  wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
While I didn't realize it at the time I ordered this book, The Children Star is yet another book occurring in the Door Into Ocean universe. Happily, it seems to be the book immediately following Daughter of Elysium, however, it has also been some time since I've read Daughter, so it took me a while to remember what I'd learned from Daughter about the characters, races, and planets that were also mentioned in The Children Star. Then again, this isn't exactly a sequel, so perfect memory of such was not a requirement.

The basic set-up is this: the needs and demands of the Fold are ever increasing. The L'liites continue to overpopulate every planet they gain a foothold on and are looking for new territory. Valedon continues to demand gemstones. The eternal Elysians need rare earth metals to build their servos and gadgets. Prokaryon has all these. It also has its own fascinating (and highly toxic to both humans and unaltered sentient machines) ecology, in such rigid order as to strongly suggest the presence of some managing intelligence. An intelligence which cannot be found.

As I've come to expect from Slonczewski, there are a lot of fascinating (and horrifying) ideas to be mulled in this book. The way we discount the intelligence of others when it doesn't look like ours. The way our strongest principles can be quickly cast aside in the face of economic "necessity." How financing the destructive whims of one very rich man seems to always take precedence over the suffering and death of millions of the poor. There are also some interesting thoughts about various obsessions over purity within religious orders.

I really enjoyed this book. Not quite as spot-on perfect as Door Into Ocean, but more tightly edited than Daughter of Elysium. Its slowly gathering momentum made it very difficult to put down in the second half! Highly recommended. ( )
  greeniezona | Sep 20, 2014 |
A nice science fiction novel with a brilliant universe and interesting big discovery in the third act. However it takes a while to build up steam, and suffers a bit from being something of a "middle book." It starts by expanding on problems better developed in [b:A Door Into Ocean|121606|A Door Into Ocean (Elysium Cycle)|Joan Slonczewski|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1312029708s/121606.jpg|2640708] and [b:Daughter of Elysium|121608|Daughter of Elysium|Joan Slonczewski|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1202489024s/121608.jpg|117082], and it concludes with the problems developed in [b:Brain Plague|121609|Brain Plague (Elysium Cycle)|Joan Slonczewski|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1312052695s/121609.jpg|117083]. Still an interesting ideas with a provocative thought experiment at its heart. ( )
  CBrachyrhynchos | Feb 4, 2014 |
Tiptree shortlist 1998 ( )
  SChant | May 7, 2013 |
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For Jeanne and Ron
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The sun crawled steadily up behind the dying city.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Only children can colonize the planet Prokaryon, genetically modified for a world whose chemistry kills unaltered adults. A colony of orphans struggle to survive, and find the planet hides strange secrets. ***** The Prokaryan landscape is ordered, as if by unseen gardeners, "hidden masters" no human has ever found. The weather behaves as though designed to meet the planet's needs. When fire threatens a forest, a rainstorm appears, only to dissipate when the fire is put out. ***** When a ruthless corporation threatens to terraform Prokaryon, to recreate it for "normal" humans, there is a sudden urgency to find the intelligent life form directing the planet. For only then can the colonists save their world-and reveal unexpected possibilities for the human future.

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