Bob Shaw’s greatest strength is in his ability to humanize his characters – to make them both engaging and appealing, and to focus the story more on them than on the grand events in the background. In The Ceres Solution, he fails at that key task.
The book starts well. (Actually, it starts and ends with framing paragraphs that add nothing, should have been removed, and can safely be ignored.) We have a young, determined, not very pleasant boy, a run-down Earth, a mystery to solve. Unfortunately, after introducing him, the book almost immediately loses its way. We shift to a mildly interesting young woman in a mildly interesting other-human culture. But after meeting her, we shift into long chunks of expository text. Not only is it not graceful, it’s not interesting. It’s a very slow start to the book, which never really recovers. The tone is dry throughout, almost clinical, with none of the warm personality that most Shaw books have.
All in all, a middle of the road SF book – mildly interesting with competent writing, but not exciting. Irritatingly, the Gateway edition is marred by very sloppy copyediting. The book was clearly produced via OCR, apparently without much care. There are dozens of errors and artifacts sprinkled throughout. Nothing major, but if you like your books done right, this will get on your nerves. Gateway had a great sale a while back, and I bought many, many books. I hope they’re not all as sloppy as this one.