Monday, December 24, 2018

Bob Shaw - Orbitsville (Het Stalen Paradijs)


Starts as a space opera, turns into an exploration story, to end up with a bleak view of a bleak future. Hmm...

Parts are good, as usual Shawn brings a surprising concept and adds some twists. I like the story, but I do not fully agree with his conclusion.


Humanity visits a star that 'disappeared' and finds a very large globe enclosing that star. This visiting ship runs into trouble but the crew finds one escape: the sphere turns out to have holes (entry points). The ship enters the globe through one of these holes and crash lands.

The remainder of the story deals with the visitors trying to find their way back.

Then, there's some nasty depressive stuff at the end.

Hollow world

Will a full hollow world, immensely large, enclosing a sun, with enough food and space for everybody, stop a race from developing? From a first look, you might indeed agree. Space enough, so there is no need to 'fight' for food (cause no.1 for evolution). If people are unhappy, they just move, and find a new, empty, quiet place to live under the sun.

How true.

So it is a giant flytrap, honeypot, no escape possible, the doom for every intelligent planet dwelling race.


Perhaps not. Not entirely.


Humanity has a tendency to 'cluster', take a look at the big cities. Crowded masses of mankind, growing and growing and growing. For food only? No. We appear to like luxury (read: electric / electronic gadgets) so much that we go to great efforts to acquire it. So, even if a part of the people in the cities would move outward, what would happen when the pressure in the center of those highly populated areas goes above a certain threshold? Sickness, unhappiness, fear, terror, rage, fights, chaos. And we end up with another part of that immense inside-out globe turned uninhabitable. For a while.

A few nukes could do wonders... How about blowing a hole into this thing? Would the force field stop air leaking out of any new holes created? Even if the hollow world would not offer any materials suitable for creating nuclear bombs, these things could still be build on other worlds...

Assuming no nukes then there's always biological warfare. You need very few resources to develop new nasty diseases.

In other words: yes, such an immense globe is a trap, but not one that stops humanities desire to breed and / or kill. Perhaps the super beings in Shaw's story did expect a more civilized race to discover space travel?

Nice read, but aged. And I think the aliens / creators of the sphere (regardless if they created the sphere with good or evil intent) may have overlooked the murderous, barbarian tendencies of some of the trapped races. Including humans.

Bring on the nukes and bio-weapons, boys! We got some spheres to contaminate!

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