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WARNING, WHOPPING SPOILERS AHEAD. I write these pages as notes, records and reminders to myself of books I have read. You are welcome to peruse these reviews, but be warned that they will spoil your reading pleasure if you have not already read them.
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Hull Zero Three   by Greg Bear

Read: 2013-03-10 Reviewed: 2013-03-11
Re-read factor:

A book which tries hard and ultimately fails to live up to its potential. The opening tries to put a human being into the ultimate horrific situation (wakes up in a strange, freezing place, starving hungry, tired, wet, in pain, skin being pulled off by frozen surfaces, being chased by monsters, intermittent gravity, etc, etc) but despite turning the dial to eleven the horror is not really conveyed through the prose.

There is a deep idea that a ship is carrying a gene pool to deliver to a distant planet in order that a new, conquering civilization can be built up there, and that when things go wrong en-route the ship is able to manipulate and mobilize this gene pool to create an ecosystem of beings with specialisms to deal with the situation; but as in all genetic population experiments it goes Frankenstein-wrong and turns into the horrible mess the book’s protagonist is `born’ into. The idea is good and gets the book all of its three stars, but the execution of the novel around that idea lacks vigour and story-telling interest.

The middle section of the book is about making acquaintances and discovering the environment, but there is little surprise other than it is a big ship with three hulls (given away by the title) full of monsters, mostly burned-out but with pockets of habitable rooms. The writing provides little detail or texture, and springs few surprises other than the anticipatable sudden appearance of monsters. Of course, it provides some friendly, intelligent monsters too, to provide our hero with some company.

There is an interesting short chapter in the middle of the end section which breaks the monotonous chronological procession of scenes, where the book really ends and the conclusion is drawn at a point in time in the future.

There is a Mother figure, almost absurd: the head of the woman the hero believes he has been dreaming about prior to arrival at the ultimate destination married to a long body covered in breasts. It turns out this thing has the wrong intentions and is creating beings with the design to take control of the ship, producing the monsters in the process; nothing very imaginative.

The final part is weakly concluded overall. We are left only with a vague notion of a ship which was despatched centuries ago to supply seedling humanity to a distant part of the universe, got caught up in an unexpected supernova along the way, instantiated some emergency procedures which led to a localised on-board war which fizzled away and left the ship able to limp to its intended conclusion. But one had this vague impression not long into the book anyway.

The essential conclusion to the book is that the ship, including its life support systems, must be closed down, causing all the living things to freeze to death. The gene pool will remain intact and when the ship does arrive at the final destination the new civilization can be realized as per plan; the ship’s self-defence/healing mechanism does ultimately work but the process required bringing this unfortunate human into existence in this unfortunate horrific situation.

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