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BOOK REVIEW by J.

Turn Right At Orion is an interesting mix of a speculative novel and a hard science book. It postulates that in the beginning of the 21st century, technology would have progressed far enough to send a person on an journey to the center of the galaxy and beyond.

By doing this, the author gets to take us on an adventure that not only reads like a science fiction thriller, but also tells the reader a great deal about current theories of cosmology and some of the more esoteric structures out there such as black holes, neutron stars, and supernovas.

The book starts in the viewpoint of an alien translator that has found a record of the author's journey some 60 million years in the future. The rest of the book is then presented in the viewpoint of the author, who has built his spaceship, the Rocinante (named either after a horse in Don Quixote or a similar spaceship described in a song by the progressive rock group Rush in the late 1980s), to take him to the center of the galaxy to see the black hole residing there.

After a close encounter with the awesome gravitational forces there, he comes back to investigate Cygnus X-1 (the first black hole discovered or at least postulated), the Crab Nebula, and other cosmological structurecrab nebula, NASA, public domains inside our own Milky Way. While he's doing this, he's describing the forces behind the creation and sustainment of these objects, and what the theories are behind them.

After touring our galaxy, he travels beyond it, going to the Magellenic Clouds where he has a close encounter with a supernova, and eventually to the great galaxy M-87 in the Virgo Cluster, one of the largest galaxies known to science, and experiences the black hole at the center of that galaxy which is an order of magnitude larger than the one in the center of our Milky Way.

 

The writing is crisp and fluent, with an attention to detail that is more in line with more standard science writing but also fits well here, where we are seeing things from the perspective of the author aboard this imaginary spacecraft. There is definitely an assumption here that the reader is at least mildly familiar with some of the terms used in the book; it does not appear to be written for someone who has not read anything about cosmology before. That being said, it is readable and anyone with even a passing interest in the subject will get a lot out of the book.

It's fun to read, and is definitely different than most science books being written today. The blend of speculative fiction, cutting-edge cosmology, and a storyline that explains very well how someone may in fact be able to travel a great distance in a short amount of time in a realistic manner (through a combination of relativistic time dilation and "hibernation") makes for a short but involving read. I hope in the future he uses this method to explore other regions of science where imagination may lead the way to better understanding of the natural world.4starExcellent09

 

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