December 14, 2018

Review: Portal by Eric Flint and Ryk E. Spoor

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Something amazing lurks under the ice of Europa.

This week, we take a look at Portal, the new and exciting science fiction thriller by Eric Flint and Ryk E. Spoor out from Baen Books. The sequel to Boundary and Threshold, Portal is hard science fiction in the tradition of Ben Bova, Hal Clement and Arthur C. Clarke. If you’re a fan of the old rockets and rayguns sci-fi with a tale based in hard science, Portal is for you.

Portal follows A.J. Baker, Helen Sutter and Madeline Fathom as they work to salvage the wreck of the Nebula Storm on the shattered surface of Jupiter’s icy moon, Europa. Needless to say, Europa is a tough environment to operate in, bathed in enough lethal radiation from the nearby gas giant to kill a man in about 30 minutes.

But something is rotten in the state of the second Galilean moon. As the good ship Zarathustra approaches, efforts are made to penetrate the surface ice. This is no small feat, as the ice on Europa is thought to be on the order of tens of kilometers thick. That would be a tough order to drill through, even on Earth. More Bemmie artifacts are found, similar to those seen by our intrepid explorers throughout the solar system on Ceres, Mars and the Martian moon of Phobos.

Adventure climaxes as our brave crew descends beneath the ice to explore the watery world below. Portal would make a good read leading up to another indie sci-fi thriller based around Jupiter and the enigmatic moon entitled Europa Report out on limited release this August 2nd.

Europa is also on the real world short list of places in the solar system (other than our homeworld) that scientists would love to explore as a possible abode for life. With a smooth surface devoid of craters being constantly reworked by fracturing of ice, there’s good reason to believe that an extensive ocean of liquid water exists beneath the icy crust. Although photosynthesis would not be possible in such an environment, the heat and energy that could drive this theoretical biosphere (as it does in Portal) could be provided by the tidal flexing of Europa’s core like a rubber ball by the gravitational field of Jupiter.

We see such alien life right here on Earth subsisting on chemosynthesis around “black smoker” volcanic vents deep on the ocean floor. In fact, life here may have got started around such vents billions of years ago.

But is such life native to Europa, or transplanted? That’s just one question that Portal poses. This would also be a great companion reader to Ben Bova’s Leviathans of  Jupiter or even the non-fiction book Unmasking Europa.

And what a weird world even intelligent life might inhabit in the closed environs of the moon… the ocean would be the extent of their universe. As Clarke once pointed out in a short story and its reiterated here in Portal- to Europeans, “up” would be towards the core of the tiny moon!

Read Portal to get a glimpse of the alien realm of Europa and what it might be like to operate there. It grabs the imagination, but also begs the question; will we ever go there to explore for ourselves?

 

Comments

  1. Ryk E. Spoor says:

    Thanks for a most excellent review and plug!

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Portal: By prolific authors Eric Flint and Ryk E. Spoor, Portal follows A.J. Baker, Helen Sutter and Madeline Fathom as they work to salvage the wreck of the Nebula Storm on the shattered surface of Jupiter’s icy moon, Europa. Needless to say, Europa is a tough environment to operate in, bathed in enough lethal radiation from the nearby gas giant to kill a man in about 30 minutes. [...]

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