by Robert J. Sawyer
June 1992; Ace Books; $5.99
review by Paula Johanson
The emerging talent of Robert J. Sawyer is apparent in his new book, Far-Seer. He has given his characters a pilgrimage and a quest for knowledge with all the appeal of the adventures of Columbus so topical at this five hundredth anniversary of the European "discovery" of the new world.
Sawyer's world is simply and carefully described -- we are even given an estimate of its dimensions as worked out by the protagonist, Afsan. The characters are described as well, in sufficient detail that it becomes natural to understand the lives and struggles of people who are sentient dinosaurs similar to the Tyrannosaurus Rex. The emotional stresses of Afsan as he moves from adolescence to maturity are powerful, as are the territorial instincts that each of his people must struggle with every day.
Afsan's pilgrimage to view the Face of God gives him the opportunity to learn truths about the world and the planets, truths which his master and the priests do not want to face. For speaking about what he has seen and experienced in his travels, Afsan is accused of blasphemy. But there are those who listen, and inquiring minds will not be quiet.
In a few hundred days, Afsan's knowledge of astronomy grows phenomenally. From estimating the circumference of his world as our ancient Greeks did, Afsan becomes able to discuss and calculate tidal stresses on moons within the Roche limit of a gas giant, a leap of insight encompassing all the knowledge of Archimedes, Galileo, Copernicus, Kepler, Cassini, Herschel and Percivel Lowell. But can he handle people half so well as ideas?
Far-Seer is galloping good read, an adventure that quickly reaches a breathless pace and does not disappoint as Afsan finds resolution for his disturbing knowledge. The book has general appeal, but will be enjoyed most be those who demand adventure and prefer science to be applied with minimal, hands-on technology.