The other reviews are right: You have to stick with this book. It seems at first to be a standard space opera, but the plot gets more complicated as it evolves. The description of a sub-light speed space faring community is well thought out and believable. And the author knows his science.
Less believable are the aliens, who seem very human in their reactions. Given the cultural differences among earthlings, it is hard to believe that an alien world would have such similar psychologies to Americans. And the plot's pacing is somewhat erratic, sometimes slow and sometimes fast. I didn't mind it, but others may. And, yes, the author repeats things, but more as a reminder of where you are in the plot and where the character is at that moment. There are a number of leading characters to keep track of.
The story has its share of unexpected twists and turns, which kept me engaged. I look forward to more stories about the deep space traders.
I would have rejected the book.
This book makes little sense. People sign up for a stint in an intergalatic military and know nothing of its mission? The mind transfer is right out of a bad 1930s sci-fi film. And the characters seem mostly unaffected by the carnage happening all around them.
This book reminded me of an snide comment that was around during the Vietnam War. Join the army, travel to exotic place, meet interesting people and kill them. It is a weak vision of our future.
As a chemist who has loved the periodic table since high school, I thought I knew all of the element discovery stories. However, Kean tells plenty of new tales that I've never heard, and when he re-tells one that I know it is so lively that I listen fascinated. Think Bill Bryson. I also love how he handles the science. Unlike many so-called science writers, he doesn't shy away from the details, but presents them in a lively and clear manner. Quantum chemistry for everyone--a neat trick. And Kean is right--the development of the periodic table ( and his forays into a few interesting side topics) is, in his hands, a story of the past 200 years of human civilization--good, bad and strange. Bravo.
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