A Tunnel in the Sky

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Fantastic Voyage 2: Destination Brain
by Isaac Asimov

Reviewed by Starflight
Posted July 28, 2002

I found a copy of this book in, of all places, an antique store a few miles from here. The book was written in 1987, and is not a sequel to the original Fantastic Voyage.

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[Editor's Note: the 1966 film was not based on the novel by Asimov, rather his book was a novelization of the screenplay by Harry Kleiner, which in turn was based on a story by Otto Clement and Jerome Bixby. At this time, FV2 is not in print, but you might be able to find it used through amazon.com, or try this link to BookFinder.com.]

This book starts out in the near future. It would seem from some of the dialog that it is around 2060 or so, as the space program has been going for a century. The Russians have not given up Marx and it is still called the Soviet Union. The Soviets have developed miniaturization, but at a huge cost in power. One Pyotor Shapirov has figured out how to do it cheaply but has met with an accident. This means there is a need to get help form an American neurophysicist with some rather strange ideas on the workings of the brain. Only he doesn’t want to go, even though the Americans want him to. So the USSR just takes him off the street and straight to their secret labs.To get to the point of the Voyage itself takes the first 120 pages of a 385 page book.

The science is at times over-explained, but it does leave you with the importance of getting the information they really do need. There is a discussion on Planck’s Constant and hooking it into the speed of light, Relativity and Quantum Theory to form a solid Unified Field Theory.----This makes FTL possible, at least as explained by the story line of the book. Would not a human reduced to the size of a blood platelet or smaller have the mass of a small star? I am thinking Black Hole ??????? Yet the story line says that this theory reduces the mass too without reducing the total number of atoms that make up whatever it is that is being miniaturized. The ship used in the voyage was built to explore the inside of a live animal/human. Yet the ship cannot be turned or put into reverse! Excuse me! But that is just not believable! A government spends billions if not trillions to get this far but due to budgetary constraints they redesign off the rudder and reverse gear? Not even the real USSR was that stupid.

We have the strong Russian female lead, Natalia Boranova, who is pushing everything to get the information needed. She can be a real bitch when needed, and she knows which buttons to push to get our American to reluctantly get with the program. She is also good at playing "Get the Central Committee to blame someone else if it goes wrong but take all the credit if it goes right," game.

Our American, Albert Morrison is, in his own eyes, a coward. And sometimes he comes off that way. But he is just honest enough with himself and open enough with everyone else to tell his fears out loud. And would a rational person really WANT to be reduced down to a size that water molecules can be seen? And be one of the first to do so? You might do it but you would be scared to death just the same. And Albert is scared plenty. The Soviets need him to come along as he has developed a computer program that he says can read the skeptic waves of the brain, that he knows where the creative centers of the brain are. His problem is that no one in his field has ever duplicated his results, even while using his equipment and computer program. It comes about that the reason that none of the others can duplicate his results, is that this computer and programing has been so modified over the years that it is literally tuned to his mind. I will not spoil the book, but will say that there is more to this man than meets the eye.

Another Russian is Yuri Kenov. He is the Russian neurophysicist, and is a driven man, so driven that he has tunnel vision about all other things and people. This includes his ex-lover and his child. He sees Shapirov’s accident and impending death as his personal windfall. He is now in a better position to take credit for everything, even other people’s work. He worries that others will better him and hides this fear by claiming to want the Soviets to be first in this venture.

Now of course we need the alluring Russian that hates Americans. She is Sophia Kaliinin. She also happens to be very much in love with Yuri and had his child. She also hates him because he has become so driven that he sees her and his child as roadblocks to fame in his field of work. This hate drives her and her actions as much as Yuri’s ambitions drive him.
Then there is Arkady Dezbnev, the pilot of the craft used. His dead father is there also, as Arkady quotes him to the point of distraction throughout the book. One line hits you funny (or at least it did me) when it comes. And the sayings really are to the point. Think of the father as a modern day Ben Franklin.

And we have Pyotor Shapirov, who is the person whose brain is entered. He is considered nuts by most of the world but the Soviets know he is on to something great. And it was his respect and understanding of Albert’s ideas that lead to the Soviets approaching Albert for help.

The end is not what you would expect or see coming. I had developed a theory as to the cause of death of Shapirov when it came, but his death is explained as expected and just bad timing to happen when it did. I will refrain from discussing my theory, and see if someone comes up with it in the forums. The end really did not go where I expected it to and for reasons I thought were rather wanting. The book is good but rather wordy when it need not be. The phrase "Fantastic Voyage" is over used and some of the "thoughtful planning" for exploring a living animal/human is anything but careful.

Still I recommend reading it.


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Isaac Asimov


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