Helix, by Eric Brown (Nottingham, U.K.: Solaris Books, 2007, ISBN 978-1-84416-472-1) 526 pp. Paper $7.99.
Helix, by Eric Brown, is a sprawling science-fiction novel combining a solid adventure story, world-building on an epic scale, and sharp-elbowed satire of religion.
Five hundred years into its journey away from a nearly uninhabitable near-future Earth, its passengers in suspended animation, the colony ship Lovelock breaks apart. Awakened to confront the emergency, a handful of crew members find themselves on the Helix, a fantastic spiral of synthetic worlds arrayed around a central star. (Imagine the lovechild of Larry Niven’s Ringworld and a corkscrew.) The survivors must explore vast expanses of the Helix in search of a place where Lovelock’s sleeping colonists can make a life for themselves. In so doing they cross a riotous patchwork of imagined climates and cultures. Having long since forgotten the true nature of their world, each zone’s inhabitants fashioned more or less absurd theologies to explain their origins, which are challenged in delicious ways as they encounter the adventurers from dying Earth. Helix delivers old-fashioned wonder with a knowing critique of blind faith that secular humanists will surely enjoy.