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The Crystal Spheres

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Language  English
Originally published  January 1984
Genre  Science Fiction
3.9/5 Goodreads

Publication date  1984
Author  David Brin
Awards  Hugo Award for Best Short Story
Nominations  Locus Award for Best Short Story
Similar  Works by David Brin, Hugo Award for Best Short Story winners, Other books

"The Crystal Spheres" is a science fiction short story by David Brin, originally published in the January 1984 issue of Analog and collected in The River of Time. It won the Hugo Award for Best Short Story 1985. In it, Brin presents an explanation for the Fermi Paradox.

Plot summary

Humanity's first attempt at interstellar space travel ends in disaster as the ship is destroyed near the edge of the Solar System by a transparent barrier. They come to realize that Sol and every other Earth-like solar system are surrounded by "crystal spheres", while uninhabitable systems are not. Every attempt to break spheres around other systems from the outside fails. Humanity is thus prevented from expanding and colonizing the universe.

The main character takes part in an expedition to a newly discovered habitable solar system with a shattered sphere. They discover the remnants of an alien civilization, the Nataral. From studying the Nataral's artifacts and writings, they learn that the only way to break the crystal spheres is from the inside. It appears as if the spheres have been put in place by someone/something to prevent any single civilization from dominating the universe. It is also discovered that the Nataral chose to go into a kind of suspended animation around a black hole, joining two even earlier species, to wait for the other civilizations of the universe to develop interstellar flight capabilities.

References

The Crystal Spheres Wikipedia


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