Zero Gravity

Ashes of Candesce by Karl Schroeder

Virga: a world of no gravity, a huge bubble in space that is lit by an artificial sun at its center called Candesce and various other smaller suns that light many floating cities. Candesce suppresses technology so that transportation is by winged shoes, flapping bikes or boats following rope roads. The travelers hold up gas lanterns to penetrate the dark dangerous corners of the world where artificial suns do not shine.  No gravity– where you swim or leap your way from house to house in a Tinkertoy city built with bits and pieces and if you’re lucky enough to be near a sun, tangles of vegetation cling to spars and weave patches of greenery into floating gardens or farms plots. Strange beasts bob in cold dark corners or winged creatures fly by peddling travelers in swooping flocks against reddened sunlight.

Outside of Virga lurks artificial nature that has swallowed the rest of the universe into a deadened virtuality and fears the reality and threat of living humanity. Unaware of its existence, those of Virga continue their petty city wars, their politics, their lives of love and struggle until one woman discovers the threat. Her warning is ignored, as perfect human-looking specimens manufactured by artificial intelligence try to persuade certain real human factions to let them inside Candesce in order to “turn it down.” They offer immortality, technological wonders and world dominance to a credulous power hungry few humans.

The Ashes of Candesce finishes a unique series that bobs in light and dark shadows. It explores the meaning of humanity against the immortality of artificial life. One of the main characters says that death is what gives life meaning and makes it precious.

I liked the series because it combines slam bang adventure with a few good love stories, while occasionally stopping to pose intellectual questions of physics and quantum theory, artificial intelligence versus human reality and the mechanics of living in no gravity.

There are sticky moments where the story lags, but on the whole, I thoroughly enjoyed the series and recommend it to any science fiction fan.

Sometimes a book or a series takes off. A book passes beyond mere word of mouth and reaches a tipping point where it becomes a “must read” and is on the lips of everyone.  It goes from genre into mainstream. All authors aspire to reach that moment, but the moment is rare. For the most part, we market fervently, hoping to excite enough readers that a certain momentum begins and our books sell on their own without our constant attention. Doesn’t always happen. But it happened for the Harry Potter series, happened for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series and now it has happened with the Hunger Games series.

The book series was popular, but the engine of Hollywood marketing has raised the average level of awareness a quantum leap. Book sales have soared. Big sales beget bigger sales and big money brings box office success. A good story helps. It’s rare when I have people grab my arm and say, “You have to read this book.”

My busy young adult daughter, who rarely reads, called me the other day to say she stayed up late and read for four hours after seeing the movie. There’s an endorsement that is every author’s wish fulfillment. So, with an apology to following the herd and coming late to the party, I am reading “The Hunger Games” to see what the buzz is all about.



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2 responses to “Zero Gravity

  1. i hated the movie, since the books were aimed at young women, the filmakers have been terrified at making anything too violent, but glad i didnt pay to watch it, i watched it at


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