Cageworld No 2: The Lost Worlds Of Cronus by Colin Kapp (book review)

Back to Solaria or what was left of our star system when the AI Zeus turned it into a set of Dyson spheres or shells at each planet and asteroid belt distance from the sun. Each layer is given its own set of mini-suns although not explained yet how they get night-time.

Interestingly, the opening chapters reveal a small crew of a religious group, Children of The Spectrum, fleeing the Jupiter shell and then realising they hadn’t the oxygen supply after their fungus-ridden hydroponics farm failed to get to the Saturn shell. Unexpectedly, they arrive in another shell, later called Cronus. The air might be thin but they survive.

Meanwhile and much later in Mars shell, they discover this new shell and Maq Ancor, now director of the Centre for Solarian Studies, is tasked to investigate and he gets his old team, the Magician Cherry, who is now mostly a drunk, and his illusionist team, Carli and Tez, now out of work, and the electrical Sine Anura for the trip. Niklas Boxa has also been kidnapped by Zeus and the track is out beyond the Jupiter shell.

Much of this book follows their encounters across the various cageworlds/shells, no matter how brief. Its problematic in that the size of them doesn’t really come out. I mean, there was a major war across the Jupiter shell wiping everyone out. Now think on that. A Dyson sphere in Jupiter orbit is a massive thing so how can a war kill everyone there? We get no indication of whether there are islands and oceans there so its pretty much a blanket statement. It does make me wonder if author Colin Kapp really realised the size he was dealing with or whether he thought it would get in the way of the story he was prepared to tell.

Much of what follows is likely to be regarded as spoiler. Of course they reach Cronus and find the descendants who are aware their gene-pool needs growth to stop in-breeding. There are other reveals that Zeus does bio-engineering but seems to ignore this shell.

There is an improvement in the character-building, even if Magician Cherry’s alcoholism is ignored from the opening chapters. There’s better expectation of the characters and the emotional content has improved a little. The Shellback spaceship should certainly be on anyone’s bucket-list to take for a flight with its automatic protective armoury. The jumps to events rather than the boring times in flight tends to forget it could drive you nuts and short-tempered let alone anything stronger. Then again, its from 1984 where we didn’t expect so much from our SF and, often, things not given as much detail allowed the readers to expand their own way. Whether that was Kapp’s intention is hard to day. Considering Zeus making so many Dyson spheres inside each other is to sort out human population growth, I would have thought it might have made more sense to have seen what kind of life was given. Considering how big these shells are, there must have been one hell of a population growth.

Anyway, two more novels to go, so maybe the mystery will be resolved.

GF Willmetts

June 2024

(pub: New English Library, 1982. 170 page paperback. Price: varies. ISBN: 0-450-05409-6)


Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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