Title & Author: The Callisto Symphony, Andrew Cullen
Genre & Publication Date: Science-Fiction, April 9, 2015
Book Description: “As an infant, George Burgess was placed aboard a spaceship, alone, and sent on a mission toward the outer edge of the Milky Way. Along the way the young boy was raised by robots and educated remotely by the world’s top professors, all under the strict guidance and supervision of the mysterious Grand Master. As he grows older, the highly intelligent young man becomes more in tune with his surroundings, uncovers irregularities in the system that controls him and begins to question everything he’s been told. He discovers Earth’s Internet and social media, and learns about the distant planet that he has never known, but was chosen to protect. And he finds out that he might not be alone in his mission, The Callisto Symphony.”
First Line: George awoke to the incessant beeping of his alarm clock, which he had named “Molly”, just as he had done every day of his life that he could remember.
My Take: This book was provided to me by the author for review.
The story of sending a human being into space as an infant, raising him and educating him in isolation so he can one day save the world (despite how despicable and morally bankrupt it is to do that to a person), had me curious.
The mystery of what the Callisto Symphony is, what George will be required to do to save the world, kept my attention, however the premise itself seemed a little shaky. I wondered how the scientists who sent him out there even knew he’d have a propensity to excel at the curriculum they wanted him to learn. I mean, I’m no dummy, but dammit if the world wouldn’t be doomed if I was required to do more than pull an average grade in Calculus. Was it based on family history? Because my grandpa was a head engineer with the railroad, pulled a 4.0 in college, had a photographic memory, and could calculate big numbers in his head. Some of his smarts passed to me, but his math wizardry…yeah…
Another thing I wondered was why they didn’t allow reverse communication. Why did they require that he not only live alone, but also prohibit him from speaking to or interacting with at least the scientists themselves? What if he had questions about the learning materials? And I wondered how scientists wouldn’t be concerned that raising a child without ANY human contact might make him raving lunatic. Human beings NEED contact with others. It’s a biological fact which, tragically, has already been proven by other morally bankrupt scientists in the past. Without this, what would make him inclined to lift a finger to save humankind?
Still, I was interested in seeing where it would lead and things did get interesting, albeit slowly, as the story went on (and as long as I completely ignored those story holes).
The Magical: The self-sufficient ship intrigued me. The timing of crops in the grow room, the solar panel exterior to replenish energy, George’s homemade robot pooch BIM, all built the “world” in my mind.
The Mundane: There were many references to George’s study of “astrology” when it should have been “astronomy”. The first time I saw it I thought it was an error, but it was repeated too many times to have been a typo. One is science, the other isn’t.
Astrology = the study of the movements and relative positions of celestial bodies interpreted as having an influence on human affairs and the natural world.
Astronomy = the branch of science that deals with celestial objects, space, and the physical universe as a whole.
The confusion of these terms in a science fiction book = Not good
UPDATE 2/12: The author has informed me that the newest version of this book has the terminology corrected:)
Summary of Thoughts: Currently this book is $5.99 for the Kindle, which seems a bit hefty to me for an eBook. I do feel this story could use some additional work, despite its interesting premise. The characters, though likable, were a bit flat. I attribute this to the narrator voice “telling” the story, rather than keeping a close third person perspective with George. Even so, the concepts attempted here are weighty and pose good questions as to the consequences of human nature on humankind. I enjoy when a book reaches towards a greater idea and ponders mankind’s intention and purpose. On that score, this book excelled.
Many thanks to author Andrew Cullen for providing a copy of the book to review!
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