The Freeze-Frame Revolution is a new science-fiction novella written by Peter Watts. It follows our protagonist, Sunday Ahzmundin, who is part of a crew of 30,000, stationed on a stasis ship called the Eriophora. Sunday’s mission is to assist in the creation of a series of wormholes, circling the milky way. Facilitating the travel for the humans which will come after.
But all is not well on this mission. The crew have been working for millions of year, waiting for someone to tell them their work is over. But this hasn’t happened. Strange beings have begun emerging from their newly created wormholes. And the onboard computer, and artificial intelligence called CHIMP is keeping secrets from the crew.
THE SUNFLOWER CYCLE BY PETER WATTS
This particular book is the second in a series of short stories written by Watts called the Sunflower Cycle. The other short stories have been written over the last 10 years and can be found for free on Watt’s website. The correct reading order for the series is Hotshot, The Freeze-Frame Revolution, The Island and Giants. However you could quite easily jump in at this second book and not miss anything.
MY THOUGHTS ON THE FREEZE-FRAME REVOLUTION
The conflict in The Freeze-Frame Revolution mainly comes from the differing politics between the humans and AI. The humans spend most of their time in stasis, waking every thousand years if the CHIMP needs help creating a wormhole gate. This is a job they have been doing for millions of years, and will seemingly continue on to the heat death of the universe. Unless they are given some sort of sign telling them to stop. Even though they have already been working long past the mission’s original end time.
If you would like a modern comparison think of Curiosity, alone, exploring the surface of Mars. NASA engineer’s thought it would have broken down long ago, but it continues to run, meaning it continues to send back data. This is similar to the crew of the Eriophora. However so much time has now passed that it may be impossible for humans, or whatever humans have evolved into, to send a signal ending their mission. However the AI doesn’t quite see these things the same way.
Peter Watts has done a brilliant job of making this book feel dark. Time is an important factor to the plot and Watts makes you feel like time is passing, this isn’t an easy task, especially when nothing on the ship is really changing. Sunday has a regular job, except when she sleeps 1000 years go by. But Watts puts it into perspective by comparing the time that has passed to how far into the past that represents. A few hundred years, a few thousand and then long before the time of the dinosaurs.
I think there is an element of horror to this book, and it’s not because the plot. It comes from putting time in perspective. The big bang was a very long time ago, Sunday spends even more time on the Eriophora, millions and millions of years, and they aren’t even half way to the heat death of the universe. Time is long and human lives are short.
I really enjoyed this book. But it is a short read, being only 200 pages. My one gripe is that it could have been much longer. However I do feel it ended at the right point. You can read the two short stories which continue the Sunflower Cycle, but I don’t feel they add anything.
The Freeze-Frame Revolution is a story about humans living in an unbearable situation. And I think the human character aspect is what Peter Watts has excelled at. The other short stories start involving aliens and they lack something because of this.
This is a hard science-fiction story, if you like books such as Seveneves by Neal Stephenson I would recommend this. It also has elements of artificial intelligence, and the problems which comes from having an all-knowing AI in control of a ship. In some ways it is also similar to The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers.
I would highly recommend this book to any reader who enjoys locked room puzzles, political intrigue, and human stories in science fiction settings.
**This book was provided for me by Tachyon Publications.