A picture of a Kindle with the cover of Dragon's Egg book on display.
Dragon’s Egg by Robert L. Forward (Photo by me)

Rating: 🌕🌕🌕🌕🌕

“Go in a direction others do not go.”

I’m ashamed to say that I’d never heard of Robert Forward before being introduced to this wonderful book. A huge thank you to my friend Cassy for dragging me out of that hole of ignorance!

Dragon’s Egg is the story of the cheela, a civilization of tiny beings that evolved on the surface of Egg, a neutron star.

The 67-billion-g surface gravity of Egg and its spin rate of over 1000 revolutions per second pose unique difficulties for the inhabitants of the star. Weighing as much as the average human, cheela bodies are only about 5 millimeters in length, and half a millimeter in height. The extreme gravity makes it almost impossible for them to climb a ‘mountain’ that is only a few millimeters high, and anything that drops onto the surface of the star disintegrates in an instant.

The compounds in cheela bodies (and in everything else on Egg) are held together by nuclear forces, unlike the electromagnetic forces that keep our atoms together here on Earth. As a result, chemical processes on the star occur 1 million times faster than they do on Earth. An entire lifetime for a cheela is a mere 15 human minutes!

Despite all of these complications, Robert Forward somehow manages to make this a Hard Sci-Fi story, and for that I give him 5 million (neutron) stars.

The characters in this book, tiny as they are, are extremely well crafted. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about how the cheela evolved to solve basic problems, such as learning how to count beyond the number three; something that they had no concept of for the longest time!

The cheela eventually make contact with the human race; a guaranteed break-your-heart experience. If you’ve never cried reading Sci-Fi before (you monster), good luck not weeping with this one.

Some tidbits:

“Go in a direction others do not go.”

Then, in a flash of inspiration, one of the greatest mathematical minds ever hatched in the past of future history of the cheela made a great leap of abstract thought. “I took one seed from each pod that I ate,” Great-Crack said to herself. “So I have as many seeds as pods.”
Her mind faltered for a moment. “But seeds are not pods!”
It recovered, “But there are as many seeds as there were pods, so the number is the same.”

“Intelligent beings!” Seiko exclaimed. “That is impossible! The surface gravity of that star is 67 billion gees and the temperature is 8200 degrees! Any being that existed on that star would be a flat glowing pancake of solid neutrons.”