Michael P Kube-McDowell

The Quiet Pools
Michael P. Kube-McDowell
First Published 1990
Ace paperback edition 1991
371 Pages

This novel presents an interesting puzzle. When reading it, there is a strong sense of the SF writing of the 1940's and 1950's, but on closer examination there are not very many obvious similarities. Certainly the book is in no way derivative, yet every page you expect a sign saying "Robert Heinlein was here". To simply dismiss this question in terms of style would be too simplistic. This for no other reason than that the book has been constructed along the lines of a spy thriller - an approach not used by the "masters" ("dinosaurs") implied above.

Examining the themes contained within the work is more fruitful. The book revolves around the construction of an interstellar colony ship and the various groups of people involved in it - the builders, the saboteurs and the potential passengers. In particular the family structures and relationships are explored in depth. Shades of Methuselah's Children - only Heinlein never explored anything in as much depth. While we are looking for parallels, check out the reverential attitude towards science, particularly genetics, exhibited in the book.

However, regardless of its heritage, the most important question that has to be answered about The Quiet Pools is: is it worth reading? Kube-McDowell may not be a great artist, but he is an excellent craftsman. This is his best work to date, and it is very well constructed. The plot is strong and consistent, the science is good, the characters well developed and the action well paced with no dull spots. Do not expect to give your sense of wonder a workout, there are no literary frontiers being broken here. But these frontiers are not broken very often anyway. So while you are waiting for it to happen, sit back, read and enjoy.

Overall rating: Echo and the Bunnymen doing a cover of a song by The Doors.