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Hull Zero Three by Greg Bear
Edited by Dong Won Song
Review by Mel Jacob
Orbit Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780316072816
Date: 22 November 2010 List Price $19.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Book Trailer / First 3 Chapters / Show Official Info /

Greg Bear's, Hull Zero Three describes the awakening of the Teacher aboard a damaged space ship. He has no inkling of his whereabouts and only vague memories of Dreamtime and his identity. He must act quickly or freeze to death. Thus begins his tortuous journey to survive, find sustenance, and learn his destiny. A young girl leads him forward as he endures and learns to use the cycles of heat and cold and of weightless and gravity as they occur.

Who or what the girl is remains part of the mystery. They find others strangers, no two alike, and together locate pockets of food and fight off enemies and monsters. Most people, like Teacher, have only rudimentary knowledge. The girl has given the others names, but not Teacher. She urges them ever forward.

Eventually he works out they are on a space ship that consists of three hulls. Teacher was birthed in Hull Zero One. Gradually, he pieces together that something or someone badly damaged the Ship, and the planned landing of colonists on a new world 500 light years from Earth never happened. He has no idea what occurred in all that time.

Soon he learns that others who resemble him have been killed or died and are stored like spare parts in frozen lockers. How many have lived and struggled only to die? He now distrusts all his memories of a past life and even the Dreamtime. Only the hard reality around him exists. He fears the Ship is so badly damaged it cannot continue to support those inside.

A woman and boy give him book written by one of his iterations with notes of that self's exploration of Hull Zero One. It contains no answers, but urges him to add more to it.

Bear shows what biology gone awry and the unrelenting will to survive can do to men, their creations, and machines. Mystical elements also offer other options. Some aspects echo old religions and myths. Teacher glimpses a ghostly presence, but others can't see it. Is it real?

He speaks of God, but has no such belief. He has a conscience and bonds with the people and creatures with whom he allies himself. His ultimate role as originally planned was to help colonists adjust to and accept whatever new world they settled, but he can imagine no role for himself if the colonists never land. This aspect becomes key to the novel's climax.

The novel's themes have occurred in other works of science fiction. The awakening of an amnesiac is familiar both from science fiction and films such as Eraser and the Bourne Identity.

The monsters Teacher encounters verge on horrors like the creations of various horror writers, the mad doctor Moreau, and the Alien films. Generational ships of lost colonists have been common. Because of this history, the novel is likely to bore some readers of these earlier works, but will provide interest and enjoyment for others. A few will reject the idea of some overarching destiny or a guardian hinted at, but never an overt presence. Such themes would have far reaching implications.

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