Posted by : atcampbell | On : January 4, 2000

Bloom by Wil McCarthy

Eight people attended the discussion of Bloom, including one first-time participant. Five had finished the book, one had read half of it, and the rest were there simply to socialize.

Bloom is a futuristic SF novel set in a world where the Earth has been invaded and taken over by a mysterious growth called the “Bloom”. A few Earthlings have managed to escape, and they have carved out new civilizations on Jupiter’s moons and in the Asteroid Belt. The book follows a group of human scientists who travel back toward Earth on an expedition to learn more about the mysterious Bloom.

We thought this book contained several interesting ideas. The scientists had a lot of technical discussions about the nature of the Bloom, and we appreciated the details on their attempts to model it with a computer using artificial life techniques. The various theories about the Bloom were interesting, and the final truth about it was an original idea.

Unfortunately this book had serious problems. The writing style was too heavy on information dumps. The plot was a minimal structure on which to hang the technical developments, and one person felt all the plot points were telegraphed. There was a “revelation” every 50 pages or so, but must of them were big letdowns. The book felt like the author was trying to write a novel in the Hal Clement tradition, but Wil McCarthy is no Hal Clement. There were major scientific errors, and the story was just not engaging.

While the author created an interesting universe for his story, it was not well utilized. The scientists were so focused on their specific mission that they couldn’t be bothered to look out the window as they passed by wonders.

Overall we found Bloom to be an adequately written but flawed hard SF novel. It’s not nearly as good as either of the previous McCarthy books discussed by our group, Aggressor Six and Murder in the Solid State.

— A. T. Campbell, III