7th Sigma

  • by Steven Gould
  • Narrated by Fred Berman
  • 9 hrs and 27 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Welcome to the territory. Leave your metal behind, all of it. The bugs will eat it, and they'll go right through you to get it. Don't carry it, don't wear it, and for God's sake, don't come here if you've got a pacemaker.
The bugs showed up about 50 years ago - self-replicating, solar-powered, metal-eating machines. No one knows where they came from. They don't like water, though, so they've stayed in the desert Southwest. The territory. People still live here, but they do it without metal. Log cabins, ceramics, what plastic they can get that will survive the sun and heat. Technology has adapted, and so have the people.
Kimble Monroe has chosen to live in the territory. He was born here, and he is extraordinarily well adapted to it. He's one in a million. Maybe one in a billion.
In 7th Sigma, Gould builds an extraordinary SF novel of survival and personal triumph against all the odds.

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What the Critics Say

"The story is compelling enough that I really did lose sleep to finish the book." (The San Diego Union-Tribune)
"7th Sigma offers further proof that good fiction isn’t necessarily about the originality of the tale itself, rather than about how it is told. Gould tells it well." (Locus)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

What if you couldn't use metal ever again?

This is a novelization of Gould's short story, "Bugs of the Arroyo," which is included with little rewriting as part of the story arc. It's a great coming-of-age story set in the desert southwest of the U.S. where a mysterious new technology has forced the abandonment of any and all technologies that require the use of metal. The thoughtful and thought-provoking descriptions of how this would force people to adapt are worth the price of admission all by themselves. In the bargain you get a story of human resilience and adaptability wrapped in some vivid and evocative descriptions of the physical and social world in which the story is set. The only flaw here is a rough and somewhat jarring transition between the new material and the original story (the new material is much better written). It is clear, by the way, that this is the first of at least two books because the mystery of the invasive technology is far from resolved at the end of this volume. Narrator Fred Berman is the perfect reader, so this is a great listen all 'round.
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- Ken

A Rudyard Kipling-esque SF Western with Aikido

First, let's talk about what 7th Sigma is and is not. Much like Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book was based on the Jungle Book, this is a retelling of another Rudyard Kipling novel - Kim. This is a coming of age adventure story, with SF elements, set against a southwestern backdrop. Yes, there are bugs that eat metal, but this is NOT a Crichton-esque techno thriller or a post-apocalyptic survival story, as it seems to be marketed.

Like Kipling's Kim, this is told as a serial novel, centering around a young boy named Kimble who is growing up - the major SF divergence is that it takes place in The Territory, where bugs eat everything metal. The people who choose to stay here learn to make due without metal - be it the rivets in their jeans, the lead in their rifles, or chips in their computers. But that's really just the setting, and it sounds more gritty than it is. In general, it's a sweet little coming of age story about Kimble finding his place in the world beside his mentor and sensei Ruth, and Col. Bentham, who he occasionally works for.

There's lots about it that's fun - aikido, heliographs, porcelain ammunition, gyrorifles, espionage, and - of course - metal eating bugs. Fred Berman's narration is fine - his reading is crisp, and he read the few Spanish sections impressively.

Unfortunately, since Kimble is such a capable and intelligent aikido student, whenever there is conflict, there's never really any doubt who will come out on top. And one of the few times when Kimble gets in over his head, happens outside the narrative. As a result, the espionage bits that make up the second half of the book drag a bit. Additionally, there's little shades of grey in this half - the bad guys might as well be wearing black hats. There's an honesty to the narrative when it's focusing on Kimble's relationships and interactions to the people he cares about in The Territory, and that's when the book is most rewarding. But when it veers off to him learning to be a spy, it didn't work as well for me.
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- Dave

Book Details

  • Release Date: 07-05-2011
  • Publisher: Audible Studios