The Sky So Big And Black (2002)

Short review of John Barnes 2002 science fiction novel The Sky So Big And Black, the 4th novel in his Century Next Door sequence.

This is a pretty good book. It is also a very frustrating book, since it doesn’t advance the backstory of the Century Next Door sequence even a little bit. It feels like, as if Barnes is stalling before his fictional history might come down, since it doesn’t look like the conflict between those on Earth who work together with One True and those who think them controlled by it will be resolved peacefully. One of the two main characters of The Sky So Big and Black is Terpsichore Murray, a descendant of the main character of Orbital Resonance, but the books have even more common.

This feels (again) like a modern Heinlein juvenile, great fun for kids, but it can also be read and very much appreciated by the grown-ups. Actually, many things will go over the head of kids, and I’m not completely sure that they really would like the book, since it’s mostly told by Terpsichore’s shrink, who tells her story in little pieces. This fragmented style robs the book a little bit of the flow and power it might have had, if it had been one ongoing stream of narrative.

Some of the speculation on education was interesting, and the writing was good all the time, highly readable without dumbed down content. Overall it’s a good book, but for those who want to know what happens next between humans and One True, frustration is guaranteed. It may have indeed been this factor, along with the fragmented style, which stopped me from fully enjoying the book. Still very recommendable.