Review: “Hex” by Allen Steele

th-1Hex by Allen Steele. Berkeley Publishing 331 pages.

I picked this book up while on our Communication Field Trip last week. I mainly bought it because I am a great fan of Allen Steele’s Coyote series. This book is an extension of that universe, based on the premise that in 2070, a group of political dissidents steal a spacecraft and travel to a new planet to start their own colony. They name the planet Coyote, and a series of events happen beyond the initial settlement. What makes the series interesting for me is that most of the stories are a combination of short stories that, put together, provide a larger story about Earth settlers on Coyote.

This book happens about 23 years after the initial group of settlers arrive on Coyote. The humans there come into contact with a federation of aliens, who are willing to communicate and trade with the humans. Eventually, one race of aliens share the secret held by another group, what they refer to as a “living world.” Some time later, the human colony receives an invitation to visit this “living world,” and colonize there if they want to. Coyote sends out a ship to investigate.

What they discover is what many know as a Dyson Sphere, an artificial shell that has been built around a sun. The sphere is built over thousands of years, using the raw materials available from their home planet and elsewhere in the solar system with meteorites and other planets. The sphere is the size of the planet’s (think Earth’s) orbit around the sun, and so the sphere provides the living space of thousands of planets, while trapping all of the energy released by the sun. Hex is the name they give the sphere because it consists of millions–if not trillions–of these hexagons. Each hexagon has six habitats lining its edges, with each habitat forming a valley a hundred miles wide and a thousand miles long. That’s a lot of living space.

Steele does his usual job of developing interesting and well thought out characters with conflict between them (the main characters are a mother and son who are estranged, and his girlfriend/fiancee). But what makes the story really fascinating–as in many tales in this type of science fiction–is the concept of the Dyson Sphere and how it works. Steele has worked it all out, and it all makes logical–if mind-boggling–sense. But it’s not just a scientific premise; the story has action, conflict and kept me interested all the way through. It was a fast read.

Hex gets five out of five stars from me.