Random House: Bringing You the Best in Fiction, Nonfiction, and Children's Books
Authors
Books
Features
Newletters and Alerts

Buy now from Random House

See more online stores - Sunstorm

Buy now from Random House

See more online stores - Sunstorm

Sunstorm

    Select a Format:
  • Book
  • eBook

Written by Arthur C. ClarkeAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen BaxterAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Stephen Baxter

eBook

List Price: $7.99

eBook

On Sale: March 29, 2005
Pages: | ISBN: 978-0-345-45252-8
Published by : Del Rey Ballantine Group
Sunstorm Cover

Bookmark,
Share & Shelve:

  • Add This - Sunstorm
  • Email this page - Sunstorm
  • Print this page - Sunstorm
ABOUT THE BOOK ABOUT THE BOOK
ABOUT THE AUTHOR ABOUT THE AUTHOR
PRAISE PRAISE
Tags for this book (powered by Library Thing)
science fiction (66) fiction (29) sf (13) time travel (10)
» see more tags
» hide
Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

When Sir Arthur C. Clarke, the greatest science fiction writer ever, teams up with award-winning author Stephen Baxter, who shares Clarke’s bold vision of a future where technology and humanism advance hand in hand, the result is bound to be a book of stellar ambition and accomplishment. Such was the case with Time’s Eye. Now, in the highly anticipated sequel, Clarke and Baxter draw their epic to a triumphant conclusion that is as mind-blowing as anything in Clarke’s famous Space Odyssey series.

SUNSTORM

Returned to the Earth of 2037 by the Firstborn, mysterious beings of almost limitless technological prowess, Bisesa Dutt is haunted by the memories of her five years spent on the strange alternate Earth called Mir, a jigsaw-puzzle world made up of lands and people cut out of different eras of Earth’s history. Why did the Firstborn create Mir? Why was Bisesa taken there and then brought back on the day after her original disappearance?

Bisesa’s questions receive a chilling answer when scientists discover an anomaly in the sun’s core–an anomaly that has no natural cause is evidence of alien intervention over two thousand years before. Now plans set in motion millennia ago by inscrutable watchers light-years away are coming to fruition in a sunstorm designed to scour the Earth of all life in a bombardment of deadly radiation.

Thus commences a furious race against a ticking solar time bomb. But even now, as apocalypse looms, cooperation is not easy for the peoples and nations of the Earth. Religious and political differences threaten to undermine every effort.

And all the while, the Firstborn are watching...


From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpt

Return

Bisesa Dutt gasped, and staggered.

She was standing. She didn’t know where she was.

Music was playing.

She stared at a wall, which showed the magnified image of an impossibly beautiful young man crooning into an old-fashioned microphone. Impossible, yes; he was a synth-star, a distillation of the inchoate longings of subteen girls. “My God, he looks like Alexander the Great.”

Bisesa could barely take her eyes off the wall’s moving colors, its brightness. She had forgotten how drab and dun-colored Mir had been. But then, Mir had been another world altogether.

Aristotle said, “Good morning, Bisesa. This is your regular alarm call. Breakfast is waiting downstairs. The news headlines today are—”

“Shut up.” Her voice was a dusty desert croak.

“Of course.” The synthetic boy sang on softly.

She glanced around. This was her bedroom, in her London apartment. It seemed small, cluttered. The bed was big, soft, not slept in.

She walked to the window. Her military-issue boots were heavy on the carpet and left footprints of crimson dust. The sky was gray, on the cusp of sunrise, and the skyline of London was emerging from the flatness of silhouette.

“Aristotle.”

“Bisesa?”

“What’s the date?”

“Tuesday.”

“The date.”

“Ah. The ninth of June, 2037.”

“I should be in Afghanistan.”

Aristotle coughed. “I’ve grown used to your sudden changes of plans, Bisesa. I remember once—”

“Mum?”

The voice was small, sleepy. Bisesa turned.

Myra was barefoot, her tummy stuck out, fist rubbing at one eye, hair tousled, a barely awake eight-year-old. She was wearing her favorite pajamas, the ones across which cartoon characters gamboled, even though they were now about two sizes too small for her. “You didn’t say you were coming home.”

Something broke inside Bisesa. She reached out. “Oh, Myra—”

Her daughter recoiled. “You smell funny.”

Shocked, Bisesa glanced down at herself. In her jumpsuit, scuffed and torn and coated with sweat-soaked sand, she was as out of place in this twenty-first-century London flat as if she had been wearing a spacesuit.

She forced a smile. “I guess I need a shower. Then we’ll have breakfast, and I’ll tell you all about it . . .”

The light changed, subtly. She turned to the window.

There was an Eye over the city, a silver sphere, floating like a barrage balloon. She couldn’t tell how far away it was, or how big. But she knew it was an instrument of the Firstborn, who had transported her to Mir, another world, and brought her home.

And over the rooftops of London, a baleful sun was rising.

The Peak of Eternal Light

Mikhail Martynov had devoted his life to the study of Earth’s star. And from the first moment he saw the sun, at the beginning of that fateful day, he knew, deep in his bones, that something was wrong.

“Good morning, Mikhail. The time on the Moon is two o’clock in the morning. Good morning, Mikhail. The time is two o’clock and fifteen seconds. Good morning . . .”

“Thank you, Thales.” But he was already up and moving. As always he had woken to within a minute of his personal schedule, without need of Thales’s softly spoken electronic wake-up call, a schedule he kept independently of the Houston time to which the rest of the Moon was enslaved.

Mikhail was a man of routine. And he would begin the day, as he began every day of his long solitary watches in this Space Weather Service Station, with a walk into the sunlight.

He took a quick breakfast of fruit concentrate and water. He always drank the water pure, never polluted with coffee granules or tea leaves, for it was water from the Moon, the result of billions of years of slow cometary accretion and now mined and processed for his benefit by million-dollar robots; he believed it deserved to be savored.

He clambered briskly into his EVA suit. Comfortable and easy to use, the suit was the result of six decades’ development from the clumsy armor worn by the Apollo astronauts. And it was smart, too; some said so smart it could go out Moonwalking by itself.

But smart suit or not, Mikhail worked cautiously through a series of manual checks of the suit’s vital systems. He lived alone here at the Moon’s South Pole, save for the electronic omnipresence of Thales, and everybody knew that low gravity made you dumb—the “space stupids,” they called it. Mikhail was well aware of the importance of concentrating on the chores necessary to keep himself alive.

Still, it was only minutes before he was locked tight into the warm enclosure of the suit. Through the slight distortion of his wedge-shaped visor he peered out at his small living quarters. He was a man equipped for interplanetary space, standing incongruously in a clutter of laundry and unwashed dishes.

Then, with a grace born of long practice, he pushed his way out through the airlock, and then the small dustlock beyond, and emerged onto the surface of the Moon.

Standing on the slope of a crater rim mountain, Mikhail was in shadow broken only by sparse artificial lighting. Above him stars crowded a silent sky. When he looked up—he had to lean back in his stiff suit—he could make out dazzling splashes of light high on the crater wall, places the low polar sunlight could reach. Solar-cell arrays and an antenna farm had been placed up there in the light, as well as the sun sensors that were the Station’s main purpose.

This Space Weather Service Station, dug into the wall of a crater called Shackleton, was one of the Moon’s smaller habitats, just a few inflatable domes linked by low tunnels and heaped over by a layer of charcoal-gray Moon dust.

Unprepossessing the hab itself may have been, but it was situated in one of the Moon’s more remarkable locations. Unlike the Earth, the Moon’s axis has no significant tilt; there are no lunar sea- sons. And at the Moon’s South Pole the sun never rises high in the sky. There the shadows are always long—and, in some places, permanent. Thus the pool of darkness in which Mikhail stood had been unbroken for billions of years, save by humans.

Mikhail looked down the slope, beyond the low bulges of the Station domes. On Shackleton’s floor floodlights revealed a complex tangle of quarries and lumbering machines. Down there robots toiled over the real treasure of this place: water.

When the Apollo astronauts had brought home their first dusty Moon rocks, the geologists had been dumbfounded that the samples contained not a trace of water, not even bound chemically into the mineral structures. It took some decades to unravel the truth. The Moon was no sister world of Earth but a daughter, created in the early days of the solar system when a collision with another infant world had smashed apart a proto-Earth. The debris that had eventually coalesced into the Moon had been superheated until it glowed blue-white, in the process driving off every trace of water. Later, comets had splashed on the Moon’s surface. Out of the billions of tonnes of water delivered by these lesser impacts, most had been lost immediately. But a trace, just a trace, had found its way to the permanently shadowed floors of the polar craters, a gift of water to the Moon as if in recompense for the circumstances of its birth.

By Earth’s standards the Moon’s water was little enough—not much more than a respectably sized lake—but for human colonists it was a treasure beyond price, literally worth far more than its weight in gold. It was invaluable for the scientists too, as it bore a record of eons of cometary formation, and offered indirect clues to the formation of Earth’s oceans, which had also been bequeathed by cometary impacts.

Mikhail’s interest in this place was not lunar ice, however, but solar fire.

He turned away from the shadows and began to toil up the steepening slope of the rim mountain toward the light. The path was just a trail, beaten flat by human footprints. It was marked by streetlights, as everybody called them, small globe lamps hung from poles, so he could see what he was doing.

The slope was steep, each step an effort even in the Moon’s gentle one-sixth gravity. His suit helped, with a subtle hum from exoskeletal servos and a high-pitched whir of the fans and pumps that labored to keep his faceplate clear of condensed sweat. He was soon breathing hard, and his muscles ached pleasantly: this walk was his daily constitutional.

At last he reached the summit of the mountain and emerged into flat sunlight. A small collection of robot sensors huddled here, peering with unending electronic patience at the sun. But the light was too brilliant for Mikhail’s eyes, and his visor quickly opaqued.

The view around him was still more dramatic, and complex. He was standing on the rim of Shackleton, itself a comparatively minor crater, but here at its western rim Shackleton intersected the circles of two other craters. The landscape was jumbled on a superhuman scale: even the craters’ far rims were hidden by the Moon’s horizon. But with long practice Mikhail had trained himself to make out the chains of mountains, slowly curving, that marked the perimeters of these overlapping scars. And all this was thrown into stark relief by the low light of the sun as it rolled endlessly around the horizon, the long shadows it cast turning like clock hands.

The South Pole, shaped when the Moon was young by an immense impact that had bequeathed it the deepest crater in all the solar system, was the most contorted landscape on the Moon. A greater contrast to the flat basalt plain of Tranquillity where Armstrong and Aldrin had first landed, far to the north close to the Moon’s equator, would be hard to imagine.

And this peak was a special place. Even here among the mountains of the Pole, most places knew some night, as the passing shadows of one crater wall or another blocked out the light. But the peak on which Mikhail stood was different. Geological chance had left it steeper and a little taller than its cousins to either side, and so no shadow ever reached its summit. While the Station, only footsteps away, was in perpetual darkness, this place was in permanent sunlight; it was the Peak of Eternal Light. There was nowhere like this on tipped-over Earth, and only a handful of locations like it on the Moon.

There was no morning here, no true night; it was no wonder that Mikhail’s personal clock drifted away from the consensus of the rest of the Moon’s inhabitants. But it was a strange, still landscape that he had grown to love. And there was no better place in the Earth–Moon system to study the sun, which never set from this airless sky.

But today, as he stood here, something troubled him.

Of course he was alone; it was inconceivable that anybody could sneak up on the Station without a hundred automatic systems alerting him. The silent sentinels of the solar monitors showed no signs of disturbance or change, either—not that a cursory eyeball inspection of their casings, wrapped in thick meteorite shielding and Kevlar, would have told him anything. So what was troubling him? The stillness of the Moon was an uncomfortable place to be having such feelings, and Mikhail shivered, despite the comfortable warmth of his suit.

Then he understood. “Thales. Show me the sun.”

Closing his eyes, he lifted his face toward the glare.

When he opened his eyes Mikhail inspected a strange sun.

The center of his faceplate had blocked much of the light of the main disk. But he could make out the sun’s atmosphere, the corona, a diffuse glow spreading over many times the sun’s diameter. The corona had a smooth texture that always reminded him of mother-of-pearl. But he knew that that smoothness masked an electromagnetic violence that dwarfed any human technology—indeed, a violence that was a principal cause of the damaging space weather he had devoted his own life to monitoring.

At the center of the corona he made out the disk of the sun itself, reduced by the visor’s filters to a sullen, coal-like glow. He called for magnification and could make out a speckling that might be granules, the huge convection cells that tiled the sun’s surface. And just visible near the very center of the disk, he made out a darker patch—obviously not a granule, but much more extensive.

“An active region,” he murmured.

“And a big one,” Thales replied.

“I don’t have my log to hand . . . Am I looking at 12687?” For decades humans had been numbering the active regions they observed on the sun, the sources of flares and other irritations.

“No,” Thales said smoothly. “Active Region 12687 is subsiding, and is a little farther west.”

“Then what—”

“This region has no number. It is too new.”

Mikhail whistled. Active regions usually took days to develop. By studying the resonances of the sun, immense slow sound waves that passed through its structure, you could usually spot major regions on the far side, even before the star’s stately rotation brought them into view. But this beast, it seemed, was different.

“The sun is restless today,” Mikhail murmured.

“Mikhail, your tone of voice is unusual. Did you suspect the active region was there before you asked for the display?”

Mikhail had spent a lot of time alone with Thales, and he thought nothing of this show of curiosity. “One gets an instinct for these things.”

“The human sensorium remains a mystery, doesn’t it, Mikhail?”

“Yes, it does.”

Out of the corner of his eye Mikhail spotted movement. He turned away from the sun. When his faceplate cleared he made out a light, crawling toward him through the lunar shadows. It was a sight almost as unusual, for Mikhail, as the face of the troubled sun.

“It seems I have a visitor. Thales, you’d better make sure we have enough hot water for the shower.” He began to pick his way back down the trail, taking care to plan every step in advance despite his mounting excitement. “This looks like it’s going to be quite a day,” he said.


From the Hardcover edition.
Arthur C. Clarke|Stephen Baxter|Author Q&A

About Arthur C. Clarke

Arthur C. Clarke - Sunstorm

Photo © Charles Adams

Arthur C. Clarke is considered to be the greatest science fiction writer of all time. He is an international treasure in many other ways: An article written by him in 1945 led to the invention of satellite technology. Books by Mr. Clarke—both fiction and nonfiction—have more than one hundred million copies in print worldwide. Mr. Clarke passed away March 19th, 2008.

About Stephen Baxter

Stephen Baxter - Sunstorm
Stephen Baxter is a trained engineer with degrees from Cambridge (mathematics) and Southampton Universities (doctorate in aeroengineering research). Baxter is the winner of both The British Science Fiction Award and the Locus Award, as well as being a nominee for an Arthur C. Clarke Award, most recently for Manifold: Time. His novel Voyage won the Sidewise Award for Best Alternate History Novel of the Year; he also won the John W. Campbell Award and the Philip K. Dick Award for his novel The Time Ships.

Author Q&A

An interview with Stephen Baxter, co-author of SUNSTORM


Del Rey:Sri Lanka, the home of your co-author, Sir Arthur C. Clarke, suffered terrible losses in the recent tsunami. Have you been in touch with him since the disaster?

Stephen Baxter:Yes, he sent me a note the day afterward, which I have his permission to pass on in part:

“I am enormously relieved that my family and household have escaped the ravages of the sea that suddenly invaded most parts of coastal Sri Lanka, leaving a trail of destruction. But many others were not so fortunate. For hundreds of thousands of Sri Lankans and an unknown number of foreign tourists, the day after Christmas turned out to be a living nightmare reminiscent of The Day After Tomorrow . . .”

Further information on the tsunami and relief efforts is posted on the website of the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation, www.clarkefoundation.org.

DR:The scale of death and damage wreaked by the tsunami is difficult to comprehend, yet Sunstorm involves a disaster of many times the magnitude. What is the sunstorm of the novel’s title, and could it ever arise naturally?

SB:The sunstorm is an instability of the sun. Stars do suffer instabilities, ranging from flares all the way up to nova explosions. Our storm is somewhere in the middle. Yes, it could happen; stars like our own sun have been observed to suffer worse wobbles!

DR:The book really drives home the violence of solar processes. We’re kind of like the man who builds his house next door to an active volcano, aren’t we?

SB:But volcanoes have the most fertile soil. Besides, we really have no choice!

DR:If such a sunstorm did occur, how much warning would we get? And would it be survivable with our current technology?

SB:We’re getting better at predicting solar flares, but the sun’s weather is chaotic, like the Earth’s. We’re always going to be caught hopping. As for survivable–well, see the technological solution in Sunstorm.

DR:Sunstorm is the second installment in the Time Odyssey series, but it’s far from a traditional sequel. How does it fit in with Time’s Eye?

SB:Both books are about an intervention by aliens in human affairs. In Sunstorm they are trying to bring the human story to a close, for their own purposes. In Time’s Eye they are regretfully inspecting our history, just before they torch it. Of course we have other ideasÉ

DR:One question left unanswered at the end of Sunstorm is the fate of Mir, the “jigsaw” Earth where most of Time’s Eye took place. Is it destroyed? Does it continue to exist? In fact, there are so many tantalizing questions involving the alien Firstborn and the future of humanity that I wondered if you and Sir Arthur might not be planning a third book . . .

SB:Mir continues to exist “elsewhere”–another reality altogether. Yes, there are unanswered questions. We have contracted for these two books, but we have a story arc and outlines for more books in the future.

DR:In Time’s Eye, Bisesa Dutt was transported from Earth to Mir on June 7; Sunstorm begins on June 8, and the date set for the eponymous cataclysm is April 20. Is there any extratextual significance to these dates?

SB:Only that April 20, 2042 is a genuine solar-eclipse date.

DR:Sunstorm begins in the year 2037. It is a world very different from that of today, both in terms of technology (AIs, outposts on the Moon and Mars, nanotech, etc.) and prevalent social structures–political, religious, and so on. I realize your aim was not to predict the future, but are there specific extrapolations in the novel that you’d feel confident enough to bet on? A return to the Moon in 2015? A Mars landing in 2033? I suppose there are fewer random elements involved in purely technological extrapolation than in a religious phenomenon like the fictional Oikumene, for example . . . not that that’s any guarantee of greater accuracy.

SB:The space mission dates are based on President Bush’s new post-Columbia plan for a return to human exploration in space. That’s not to say the dates will be met, but they’re actually the current plan! I think in general the future in Sunstorm is optimistic; we will suffer climate change, but we hope that we will be able to overcome some of the differences that separate us right now–hence the Oikumenes, a movement aimed at finding common ground among the world’s great religions.

DR:Although Bisesa returns in Sunstorm, the novel seems to belong more to characters like Siobhan McGorran, the Astronomer Royal, and Miriam Grec, the prime minister of Eurasia. The prevalence of strong female characters in both Time Odyssey novels is striking.

SB:Perhaps only because you expect Strong Men in disaster stories! Actually, Strong Women make an honourable tradition in all forms of SF, from Alien’s Ripley all the way back even to Lt. Uhura from Star Trek.

DR:You mentioned climate change a moment ago. There is a vast difference between the official U.S. attitude toward this problem and that of the rest of the developed world. To what do you attribute this discrepancy?

SB:Maybe politicians act only when they have to! Perhaps it feels as if resource reserves and wealth will buffet the US for a while longer, so the pols don’t have to make hard choices, not yet. But climate change will bite us all.

DR:At one point in the novel, Miriam Grec expresses her belief that in coming together to solve crises like global warming and the threat of the sunstorm, the human race is maturing as a species. Do you agree?

SB:Yes. I’m actually very encouraged by efforts like the Kyoto Protocol. For all the imperfections of such efforts, we are making strong attempts to work together to get hold of the problem globally; a century ago we’d already have been fighting over the last oil reserves. A slight plug–in my next solo novel, Transcendent (Del Rey, December 2005), I have the US taking the lead in a serious attempt to address a climate crisis. I’m sure we’ll see that eventually; it has to come.

DR:I couldn’t help contrasting Aristotle, Thales, and Athena, the noble AIs of A Time Odyssey, with Hal from A Space Odyssey.

SB:Sympathetic (or unsympathetic!) AIs are an obvious legacy of the original odyssey. So yes, the global minds of Sunstorm and the phones of Time’s Eye are Hal’s remote cousins.

DR:Your 1997 novel, Titan, postulated that the Huygens probe would find life on Saturn’s moon. Hasn’t that possibility been pretty well scotched now that Huygens has landed? On the other hand, you couldn’t have been too disappointed by such a brilliant success for the European Space Agency.

SB:Life on Titan is still possible, even though it didn’t show up as directly as in the novel! I couldn’t possibly be disappointed in any way with what we saw of Titan. I feel privileged to have such wonders unfolding in my lifetime; when I was a kid, Titan was nothing but an orange dot in the sky.

DR:What are you working on now?

SB:A new series of alternate-history thrillers, to be called TIME’S TAPESTRY.


From the Hardcover edition.

Praise

Praise

Praise for Time’s Eye

“A rousing adventure.”
–The New York Times Book Review

“Wonderfully entertaining . . . a story that engrosses you with its dramatized ideas about the nature of existence . . . You won’t set the book down either to eat or sleep or work if you can help it.”
–Chicago Tribune

“By the end, when two of history’s most ambitious conquerors meet, we are so thoroughly invested in the characters, we can’t wait for the sequel.”
–Entertainment Weekly (Editor’s Choice)

“A fast and engaging read.”
Rocky Mountain News



From the Hardcover edition.

Your E-Mail Address
send me a copy

Recipient's E-Mail Address
(multiple addresses may be separated by commas)

A personal message: