Wednesday, June 09, 2010

O Brave New World

Surfacing from working on the ongoing (about halfway through the second draft, killing my darlings like there's no tomorrow), here's the cover for the UK mass-market paperback of Gardens of the Sun. It isn't published until August, but you can preorder it right now. The artwork is by the terrific space artist Don Dixon - how great is that? You can see the original here, and do check out everything else too, while you're there. It shows Uranus from the surface of Miranda, its strangest moon - and one of the strangest moons in the Solar System (which is saying a lot). From the novel:
Most of Uranus’s thirty-plus moons were small chunks of ice or carbonaceous material. One group orbited just outside the outer edge of the ring system; another occupied distant and irregular orbits, wanderers captured by Uranus’s gravitational field. And between these two shoals of tiny moons were five massive enough to have achieved hydrostatic equilibrium, contracting into spheres under the force of their own gravitational fields. Four were much alike, balls of dirty ice wrapped around silicate cores, spattered with impact craters, dusted by dark materials flung outward by the chains of collisions that had created the ring system, fractured by varying degrees of ancient geological activity. But the smallest of the larger moons, Miranda, was not only the strangest of Uranus’s family of satellites, it was one of the strangest moons in the Solar System: a patchwork of cratered, banded and ridged terrains broken by mountainous ridges and monstrous fault canyons up to twenty kilometres deep, as if hammered together from pieces of half a dozen different bodies by some inept god who’d afterwards slashed and hacked at his botched creation in a fit of rage. An early theory about its formation suggested that it had been shattered several times by massive impacts and the larger fragments had randomly clumped together, exposing sections of the core in some places and sections of the original surface in others, but later research showed that its haphazard topography was the result of intense geological activity driven by tidal heating at a time in the deep past when it had possessed a far more eccentric orbit.

Stretched and kneaded every time it swung close around Uranus, Miranda had bubbled and blistered and cracked like a snowball wrapped around a hot coal. Eruptions of icy magma had flooded older terrain and created smooth plains. Coronae, huge domes edged with concentric patterns of ridges and grooves, had grown at the top of upwellings of warm ice that penetrated and deformed overlying strata. And after it had settled into its present orbit, it had cooled and frozen through and through. Its surface had contracted and tectonic activity had scored it with deep grabens formed by extensional faulting, while compressional strain had raised systems of ridges and valleys and thrown up escarpments several kilometres high.

This violent geological history had created a varied and chaotic moonscape that, patched with varied terrain, cut by the rifts and grooves of transition zones and gigantic scarps and grabens, provided a wealth of hiding places. The refugees elected to settle in the deep groove of a narrow chasm in the high northern latitudes, and put to work the two crews of construction robots they’d brought with them.


Anonymous Sergey said...

Impressive cover art!

June 09, 2010 8:04 pm  
Anonymous Nick said...

Hi Paul,

Your two books on the colonization of the gas giant moons were fantastic!

I strongly recommend them to everyone.

What really caught my imagination were the explanations you gave for how humans might survive and prosper in micro-gravity environments.

I’ve had a look for some scientific research into this and haven’t had much luck finding anything. Can you recommend a source?

On a related topic, I find it interesting how the widespread assumption seems to be that Mars gravity would be more-or-less fine for humans, even though it’s only 38% of Earth’s gravity. It seems to me that there’s a very good chance that it will be too low for humans to grow healthily in, especially children but even adults.

June 16, 2010 5:24 am  

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