My emotional reaction on seeing the cover of this book was one of utter fascination. How could this be? A whole new genre, in my experience---blending tropes from the science-fiction of “the future,” with a whole new breed, not only of “what could happen,” but, “what if this had happened instead” (alternate history) and “what if things actually worked like this” (alternate science)…
Well, I would recommend this reading to any serious (believe it or not) hard science-fiction fan. This is no fairy-tale, despite its premise of correct Artistotelian and ancient Greek science. It treats the laws of aether, fire atoms and celestial spheres with just as deadly seriousness as a physicist and astronaut in our world might deal with cosmic rays and terminal velocity.
The setting is fascinating, which, despite the centrality and attention-gravitating compellingness of its focal concept, the continuation of the Delian League (for a thousand years and more) does not become myopic, but explores other implications well beyond it---such as, if this Greek empire became a global force, who would they run into, and would there be any other worthy foes to oppose them? The answer to this last question is “yes,” and it happens to be the Chinese “Middle Kingdom” who has been so bitterly locked in mortal struggle with the Greeks (using their own system of Chinese energy theory, which also works) are almost at a stalemate.
In an attempt to break the conflict, one fine Delian ship (happening to be a carved out piece of the moon) makes its way to use the titular “celestial matter” to ring itself a captive piece of the sun, which they will drop in a deadly conflagration upon the Middle Kingdom capital, in an eerie echo of Hiroshima and Nagasaki’s western-power imposition of nuclear decimation upon an Asian nation.
Religion (the worship of many gods, plus a mysterious new sect, and more), along with varying nationalities (such as the Cherokee body guard who appears early on: “Yellow Hare”) all give this book a rich, must-read feeling.
Celestial Mattersis a startling novel of hard SF in which the scientific beliefs of the ancient Greeks are literal fact. The empire of Alexander the Great has lasted a thousand years, and for a thousand years it has been at war with the empire of the Orient. Now a spaceship is traveling through the heavenly crystalline spheres to the sun to return with the ultimate weapon: a fiery piece of the sun itself.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.