Book Review: ‘The Goliath Stone’
My sole complaint with this novel? It’s only 317 pages long.
I could have easily hung out with these characters for twice that long, or three times. (I’m one of those people who likes doorstoppers.) But only if they’re well-written, and “The Goliath Stone” easily fits into that category. I wasn’t sure about that at first, though. I took the book with me on a recent family trip, and reading the description on the dust cover, I resigned myself to a generic techno-thriller. What I thought was going to happen was this: a nanotechnician launches some nanomachines at an asteroid to try and mine it. The nanomachines go haywire and the mission goes dark. Then twenty-five years later, the asteroid is back–this time, on a collision course for Earth. Now Toby Glyer, our protagonist, must find William Connors, his former partner, if he wants any hope of stopping the asteroid before it kills them all.
That’s how the dust cover read to me. All of what it says is technically true, but I feel like whoever wrote the book jacket didn’t actually read the book. All they got was a summary, because the tone of that versus the tone of the actual novel are miles apart from each other.
“The Goliath Stone” is hilarious. It’s quick and funny and it makes me feel like I’m not the smartest person in the room any more (and that’s saying something). I realize what it’s probably saying is, “I have an inflated sense of my own intelligence,” but I prefer to think of it like I’m making a “Firefly” reference. You’ve seen that show before, right? Of course you have. You’re on Geek Smash, after all. Well, in the pilot episode, Simon Tam explains about his sister, saying that he graduated top of his class, and so forth, but that his sister makes him look like an idiot child. That’s how I feel about “The Goliath Stone.” But don’t let that put you off getting it.
Sometimes I like feeling as though I’m not the smartest person in the room, and Niven and Harrington oblige. Their characters, especially William Connors–the man really behind the nanomachines–are quick-witted and throw out references left, right and center, everything from old TV shows to scientific theories to Terry Pratchett, and as I’ve said before, I love Terry Pratchett.
But I was making a point up above about a disparity between the tone of the dust cover and the tone of the book. You see, an asteroid covered in nanomachines is hurtling toward Earth, but the smart people in the novel aren’t worried about it. Since we get to see things from the perspective of the nanomachines every other chapter or so, the reader isn’t worried about it either. The nanomachines are going to help us, because that’s the way William Connors designed them. He also gave them a few other duties he didn’t tell anyone about…
So the reader of “The Goliath Stone” finds his/herself on a madcap adventure with geniuses, in a world where the Native American populations have banded together to found their own (well-funded) nation, where nanomachines permeate every man, woman and child on Earth and that’s a good thing. Too often nanomachines (and Science in general, really) get portrayed in a negative light, but Niven and Harrington see the joy and wonder in it. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot A) because I don’t want to ruin any surprises for you and B) because there’s no way such a brief summary can do this novel justice, so I’ll just say you need to get a copy.
It’s available on Amazon, and I heartily recommend it.