SFWRITER.COM > Novels > Starplex > Typical Passage
by Robert J. Sawyer
Copyright © 1996 by Robert J. Sawyer
All Rights Reserved.
When giving readings at bookstores, I often don't read the opening of a novel;
rather, I look for a typical passage that embodies the flavor and
theme of the book. I find that in a book superstore, where the acoustics
are usually quite lousy, a six- or seven-minute reading is ideal. This is
the passage I often read from Starplex.
There was silence on Starplex's bridge for a time, broken
only by the gentle hiss from the air-circulating equipment and
the occasional soft beep from a control panel. Each person
contemplated the small fuzzy blot of light that one day would
give rise to all of them, contemplated the fact that they were
farther out in space than anyone had ever been before,
contemplated the vastly empty darkness all around them.
Six billion light-years.
Keith remembered reading about Borman, Lovell, and Anders, the
Apollo 8 astronauts who had circled the moon over
Christmas of 1968, reading passages from Genesis back to
the people on Earth. They had been the first human beings to get
far enough from the homeworld so that they could cup it in an
outstretched hand. Maybe more than any other single event, that
view, that perspective, that image, had marked childhood's end
for humanity the realization that all their world was one tiny
ball floating against the night.
And now, thought Keith, maybe just maybe this image
was the one that marked the beginning of middle age: a still
frame that would become the frontispiece of volume two of
humanity's biography. It wasn't just Earth that was tiny,
insignificant, and fragile. Keith lifted his hand and reached
out toward the hologram, cupping the island of stars in his
fingers. He sat silently for a long moment, then lowered his
hand, and allowed his eyes to wander over the overwhelming dark
emptiness that spread out in all directions. His gaze happened
to pass over Jag who was doing exactly what Keith had done a
moment ago, using one of his hands to cup the Milky Way.
"Excuse me, Keith," said Lianne, the first words spoken by anyone
on the bridge for several minutes. Her voice was soft, subdued,
the way one would talk in a cathedral. "The electrical system is
repaired. We can launch that probe anytime you like."
Keith nodded slowly. "Thank you," he said, his voice wistful.
He looked once more at the young Milky Way floating in the
darkness, and then said softly, "Rhombus, let's have a look at
what's going on back home."
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