postheadericon The Shadow Of Heaven, Gollancz, Hardback, ISBN 0-575-04916-2

I have three copies of this book, two paperbacks and a hardback. The two paperbacks comprise a NEL abridged edition and a Corgi edition. I bought and read the abridged edition first, later getting the full version to see what I was missing out on. When the book was re issued in hardback in 1991 I bought it and read it for the third time.

Bob Shaw revised three of his novels: Ground Zero Man was revised as The Peace Machine; Vertigo was re issued as Terminal Velocity with the addition of the original short story, Dark Icarus, used as a prologue, and Shadow of Heaven, first published in 1969, was revised a couple of decades later and re issued in 1991.

Unlike the first two, which had little or no change, Shadow of Heaven has parts that were rewritten and different takes on scenes.

Vic Sterling is a reporter, a profession that pops up more than once in Shaw’s work – most notably Fire Pattern. It might be a case of go for what you know as Shaw himself did work as a journalist.

It was written in the late sixties (1969) and issued initially as a paperback. I bought the abridged version first, then later the full version in paperback and finally the revised version in hardback in the early nineties when it came out.

The Compression has changed the world. Set around 2096 WW3 had scarred the land, leading to the degradation of land for the use of agriculture. Worldwide the soil was useless. Stirling is brought into the adventure by reporting and investigating the deaths of two people, a man and a woman. This investigation leads him to search for his brother.

International Land Extensions – ILEs – are where all agricultural activity went on, filled with agricultural robots. Through a religious organisation called the receeders Vic gets closer to ILE 23 – Heaven – and the mystery of his missing brother.

When he gets to Heaven he finds himself a little bit of a fish out of water, and the place was different to his expectations and his knowledge of ILEs. Vic finds a whole community on Heaven who have been living there for fifteen years, among them his brother. There he finds the only strict law they have: no one goes back down from Heaven.

The twist in the story comes a little over halfway through when a government agency becomes involved, and Vic learns more about the isles and their part in society, and Vic faces a new and different threat.

Shadow of Heaven was good enough for me to read three times. I bought the abridged version and ploughed through an enjoyable thriller. The full version was read shortly thereafter, and again it was an enjoyable experience. The re issued hardback had some updating and re writing.

Shaw creates a good array of characters and sets up a nice conflict between Vic and his brother. A love interest for Vic is also introduced. It’s one of Shaw’s oldest novels – dating from the late sixties – and one of his longest but he holds the reader well, constantly bringing twists and turns.

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