Monday, July 2, 2007

Charon's Ark by Rick Gauger (1987)

Paperback cover blurb


To the teachers and students of Seattle’s Garfield High School, the trip was just a public relations lark – for helping a wealthy Pacific island open a science museum, they were to get a free trip around the world. It all seemed too easy. It was. As their chartered 747 crossed the Pacific, a huge spacecraft swooped down, cut off its wings, swallowed it up, and headed deep into outer space. Next stop: Charon, the moon of Pluto.

Suddenly the flight crew, the students, and their teacher found themselves the unwilling guests of unseen and unreliable hosts whose life-support systems were breaking down.

Even worse, the humans were caught in a deadly cross-fire between the rapidly failing aliens and a mad computer program that considered only itself indispensable – and whose intentions clearly were to destroy Earth…

My thoughts

Charon’s Ark is an entertaining but grim novel that apparently is Rick Gauger’s only full-length work. The premise is that Pluto and its moon, Charon, were built by aliens as a nature preserve to save Earth’s dinosaurs. Charon is a hollow sphere with a tiny black hole in its center providing gravity, while a laser drawing its energy from Pluto provides light and heat. As crazy as the science sounds, Gauger pulls it off convincingly (well, as convincingly as any other Big Dumb Object). The aliens who built the preserve are still around but need some fresh bodies to continue their mission, so they hijack an airliner full of teens to take their place as caretakers of the moon.

The cover blurb may lure readers into thinking Charon’s Ark is nothing more than a light-hearted romp for young readers. That’s hardly the case. The novel is mercilessly grim, and many kids die horrible, painful deaths throughout its pages. Still, the novel works quite well as a science fiction adventure with an appropriate sense of wonder, although the dinosaurs here are more for color rather than a central part of the plot.


  • Science fiction artist Don Dixon created the book's cover art. A prolific painter, Dixon told SF Site that Charon's Ark remains his favorite cover.


Elizorr said...

The novel IS, indeed, the first in a trilogy. Furthermore, it is the weakest of the three novels, which just get funnier, more clever, and more original as the series progresses. I did a great deal of editing on the second and third volumes, working closely with Mr. Gauger to create a spruced-up, three-book package to shop around to publishers. He is currently negotiating the rights for all three novels and we expect to see them published within the next couple years.

bgriswold said...

I too have seen the second and third installment. Elizorr is correct, the whole series is a clever and entertaining story in three parts. Many horrible deaths yes, but not grizzly (for the most part); but very amusing story lines, sometimes snortingly so. This thing should be made into a movie series for sure.

Anonymous said...

I just finished the first book and I couldn't put it down. I can't wait for the next two. I would love to see the movies of these books. I think they could rival Jurassic Park and 10,000 BC. Hope they are published soon.