RogerBW's Blog

The Outcasts of Heaven Belt, Joan D. Vinge 13 November 2023

1978 short SF novel. After its civil war, the Heaven system (gas giant and trojans, asteroid belt, some very marginal planets) has split into multiple polities, and the machinery that sustains life is gradually breaking down. Then a ramscoop starship arrives from a nearby system…

…and it all goes to pot very fast, as one of those states attacks the ship and most of its crew is killed. But this isn't a book about space action; it's much more about the people and the cultures of the various political factions (the Demarchy of the leading trojans, where everything can be voted on by the people but there are still corporate oligarchs; the Grand Harmony round the gas giant, a more conventional dictatorship; the dying people of Lansing, the former capital, with its plastic-roofed greenhouse planetoid and its strict policies on radiation-damaged children; and the surviving starship crew, who were hoping to trade for goods to solve their own problems). Each of these places has its own resource shortages, some of them more urgent than others, and each of them has a culture that's grown up round dealing with it.

Another consideration is that everyone knows the Heaven system's civilisations are running down (they can't fix the machines to fix the machines), and they cope with it in different ways: ignoring the problem, fighting to keep things going as long as possible, or nihilistic despair.

It's grim, and it's perhaps shorter than would have been ideal, but the people are splendid.

Series: Heaven Chronicles | Next in series: Legacy

  1. Posted by David Pulver at 01:10am on 17 November 2023

    I remember reading this in Analog in the year before I went to high school. I thought "Demarchy" was a great name. A few years later I bought Vinge's epic-sized Snow Queen, which was a very very different story, albeit still well done.

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 12:09pm on 20 November 2023

    A great many things I've read since 1978 seem, in retrospect, to have been influenced by this in some way. It's a little surprising that Joan Vinge is so little mentioned in ragged-space-SF circles.

  3. Posted by David Pulver at 10:18am on 22 November 2023

    I think it's mostly that a lot of her novel-length work in the 80s and 90s was film novelizations, and then lingering health problems from a car accident also limited her work and visibility in the 2000s. I do remember among my gaming circle she was still popular enough in the mid 80s that one player named a PC after one of her characters...

  4. Posted by RogerBW at 09:00am on 23 November 2023

    Similarly with Vonda N. McIntyre—some excellent books (it's probably time I reread the Starfarers series) but also a bunch of Star Trek and Star Wars books which nobody seems to have taken very seriously. (Some of them were certainly cash-ins, but some are very good indeed.)

Comments on this post are now closed. If you have particular grounds for adding a late comment, comment on a more recent post quoting the URL of this one.

Tags 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s 3d printing action advent of code aeronautics aikakirja anecdote animation anime army astronomy audio audio tech aviation base commerce battletech beer boardgaming book of the week bookmonth chain of command children chris chronicle church of no redeeming virtues cold war comedy computing contemporary cornish smuggler cosmic encounter coup covid-19 crime crystal cthulhu eternal cycling dead of winter doctor who documentary drama driving drone ecchi economics en garde espionage essen 2015 essen 2016 essen 2017 essen 2018 essen 2019 essen 2022 essen 2023 existential risk falklands war fandom fanfic fantasy feminism film firefly first world war flash point flight simulation food garmin drive gazebo genesys geocaching geodata gin gkp gurps gurps 101 gus harpoon historical history horror hugo 2014 hugo 2015 hugo 2016 hugo 2017 hugo 2018 hugo 2019 hugo 2020 hugo 2021 hugo 2022 hugo 2023 hugo 2024 hugo-nebula reread in brief avoid instrumented life javascript julian simpson julie enfield kickstarter kotlin learn to play leaving earth linux liquor lovecraftiana lua mecha men with beards mpd museum music mystery naval noir non-fiction one for the brow opera parody paul temple perl perl weekly challenge photography podcast politics postscript powers prediction privacy project woolsack pyracantha python quantum rail raku ranting raspberry pi reading reading boardgames social real life restaurant reviews romance rpg a day rpgs ruby rust scala science fiction scythe second world war security shipwreck simutrans smartphone south atlantic war squaddies stationery steampunk stuarts suburbia superheroes suspense television the resistance the weekly challenge thirsty meeples thriller tin soldier torg toys trailers travel type 26 type 31 type 45 vietnam war war wargaming weather wives and sweethearts writing about writing x-wing young adult
Special All book reviews, All film reviews
Produced by aikakirja v0.1