Author: Greg Bear
Genre: Science Fiction
Greg Bear did not disappoint. The excellent cover exudes the exact atmosphere I encountered from the second chapter: Lifestart. I too found myself as confused as Teacher when Greg Bear threw me into a scene as far removed from the introduction as can be expected. From that point, I found myself racing along with Teacher, agog at each new twist and never guessing the final outcome. There’s nothing so satisfying as to pick up a book and have all you expectations of the story met, along with an ending which resolves all the mysteries elegantly – and still leaves you with those philosophical questions you can debate for hours, if not years.
The Whole story:
Hull Zero Three is the first Greg Bear book I’ve read, being too intimidated previously to have picked up one. I was looking for a sci-fi story with a dark bent, one in which a spaceship journeys through space, one which has its roots in the science fiction I used to read as a teenager, one with characters I sympathise with. And one which would stimulate a debate, if only in my mind.
Hull Zero Three checked all of those boxes.
Teacher is the narrator. He’s traumatically woken up, by a mysterious girl, on a ship which he is told is sick. Even worse, clueless Teacher may be the one everyone else is counting on to help make things right. But first he has to survive, and to be successful in that, he has to go through a very steep and dangerous learning curve. His exams all have final outcomes – live or die. His facilitators are monsters, his own teachers enigmatic even when he can understand them, and the only person he might be able to trust is himself. Or can he? Greg Bear kept me guessing until the end.
Mystery piles onto mystery and allies come in strange forms and manners. This was one of things that I liked most about this novel.
“The three other humans – Picker, Pushingar and Satmonk – not exactly like me or the girl but capable of laughter and kindness and solidarity, the best human traits of all, follow close behind.” Hull Zero Three pg 50.
This passage, at the end of the chapter Big Ideas, prepared me for the that big question I was seeking from this book. For me, that question is: What is it that truly makes us human? What is that justifies humanity’s existence? I thought Greg Bear presents a very strong case.
In Hull Zero Three, I never for a moment forgot that we were in space; in a ship which spells doom. Greg Bear writes in a visual way so that it was easy to imagine the dark corridors, the weightlessness and vast impersonal beauty of deep space. He contrasts it well with the humanity on board – both the light and dark sides. I chased both sides of humanity in this story just as Teacher chases the heat in an effort to outrun the cold.
So what did I learn from this whole experience?
“At any cost.” in the chapter The Briefing, we are asked to consider if we would do the same, condone the same; accept survival ‘at any cost‘. And the consequences? What could they be? Do people even bother contemplating large scale consequences anymore. Sobering questions for this day and age in which we appear to be mirroring the programmers of the ship in Hull Zero Three.
This story also leads me to believe that if Greg Bear is right about what truly makes us human, then we won’t be for much longer. That essence is fast being tossed aside by the ‘at any cost’ brigade. Bravo Greg Bear. When is the movie coming out?
Recommend: to lovers of science-fiction, ship-bound mysteries and philosophers
Leenna is currently writing her second sci-fi novel (or novella) The Incident At Wolfe Creek, and is therefore now very hypersensitive when it comes to parallel world stories, plots and empathetic characterisation.