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Dyson Sphere - Book Review

Star Trek: The Next Generation

Published 16 November 2019

by Maxwell P Lee

Internet maven. Bacon fanatic. Unable to type with boxing gloves on. Coffee junkie. Avid thinker.

Star Trek The Next Generation Dyson Sphere

Photo: Reading Star Trek Dyson Sphere at my coffee table. Enjoying a bit of java out of my Star Wars mug. Yes, fans can cross genres. This isn't Ghostbusters where you cannot cross the streams.

Why am I reading Dyson Sphere?

The Dyson Sphere is a stunning science fiction concept that may actually exist. Imagine building a monstrous sphere around a star. The star power is then utilized within for unknown reasons. Strap on your reading glasses and join The Next Generation team in saving the galaxy from certain destruction.

A science fiction romp inside the Dyson Sphere

I find that it is often worth rummaging around the community book fairs for decent science fiction at a reasonable price. I think that the going rate for a novel at the moment is around two bucks, if you are not looking for the latest blockbuster. This has brought me to the extensive range of Star Trek novels that are always on offer. Star Trek novels represent value as the characters are well established, the story universe is broad, and the quality of the stories tend to be good.

Dyson Sphere is No. 50 in the Star Trek: The Next Generation universe. Captain Jean-Luc Picard works with the silicon-based life forms, the Horta, to conduct an archaeological dig of the Dyson Sphere. This is not so much a character-led story as an adventure on a grand scale. The Dyson Sphere is an excuse to have a swashbuckling good time. The troubling aspect of an invading Dyson Sphere is the scale; it's just too vast—mankind appears insignificant by comparison. Neutron Stars are flung through the universe, large suns slam into immeasurable oceans and sentient ocean-based life forms working together with self-aware rock machines to escape an inter-dimensional nightmare. In the end the reader is left to dwell on the mysterious Dyson Sphere builders and their possible galactic war with the Borg.

The troubling aspect of an invading Dyson Sphere is the scale; it's just too vast—mankind appears insignificant by comparison.

Good science fiction examines alternative possibilities and technologies to find new ways for telling a compelling story. Many classic sci-fi writers claim that this is half the fun of storytelling. Unfortunately, many writers focus on obvious humanoid variations or interactions between species. Very few writers can re-imagine new worlds constructed beyond living on spaceships and space-boulders. This is where the Dyson Sphere comes in. Whole worlds clustered into a flying spaceship to escape the shackles of their former thermodynamic limitations. I consider Dyson Spheres to be futuristic arks inhabited by countless lifeforms. Very few stories focus on exotic planets. And this is what makes this novel so exciting.

I love the concept of Dyson Spheres but, ultimately, they have not taken off as a story telling vehicle. The scientific premise is there. It is easy to suggest that Dyson Spheres are seen as a product of the Star Trek: The Next Generation universe. I think that the roots of the problem are dug deep in how they have been used as fictional pieces. ST:TNG Dyson Sphere is a story on an ultimate scale, however, there is very little if the what-if, or alternative reality, that the reader can connect to. How am I expected to engage in deciding what who is just and who is evil when the builders of the Dyson Sphere are never revealed?

I felt that the story really didn't explain who the Horta are. In The Original Series, the Horta is a highly intelligent, silicon-based species. In the television episodes they look like mounds of rock lave moving through dark caves. The is a strong fan-base for them and they even make an appearance in the Little Golden Book series. It sits uncomfortably with me when the story makes a joke of the species.

If you see this novel on sale at the second-hand markets then you should consider giving it a read. It introduces a Dyson Sphere into the universe and pits the Captain against the Horta. The action in this book starts strong then hits a warp speed sugar rush.