A woman experiences repeating history on several doomed worlds. Billie Crusoe lives on planet Orbus, in the technologically advanced Central Power. Orbus is composed of two other civilizations, the Eastern Caliphate and the Sino-Mosco Pact and at this point in its history it has been mined and polluted, red sandstorms sweep the globe, and is just a few decades away from being uninhabitable.
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Billie works in Tech City but is a non-conformist who lives on the last remaining farm in the country. She is also secretly a radical with ties with the Resistance that commits acts of vandalism and sabotage against the government and the corporation that controls it.
At the start of the book a new planet has been found, known as Planet Blue. The expedition included a Robo Sapiens, a highly advanced female robot named Spike. Spike is due to be dismantled per protocol but she asks for Billie's help escaping, and Billie agrees but before she can do anything Spike escapes on her own.
Later Billie gets a visit from the authorities, who know about her past and suspect she helped Spike. She is given the choice of leaving on the initial ship to Planet Blue or staying and facing prosecution for trumped up charges.
Planet Blue is primordial and suitable for human life except for the presence of dinosaurs. The Central Power secretly plans to set up a hierarchical state of rich citizens with technology and an underclass of Caliphate refugees to farm the land (Orbus citizens no longer have those skills).
Along the way Billie and Spike begin a relationship, although the captain is also in love with Spike. The crew talk about the things they have seen, some of which seem fantastical, but others strangely familiar. They describe a mysterious Planet White which appeared to be the burning ruins of an advanced civilization, white hot and uninhabitable, and a Planet Red which may or may not be Orbus itself.
Arriving on Planet Blue they reroute a meteor into the planet in order to wipe out the dinosaurs and make the planet suitable for human civilization. They calculate that the impact will cloud the skies for a few months and when air clears the colonization can begin. However there is a miscalculation and the meteor comes in too fast, hitting the wrong place and triggering an ice age that will last centuries, longer than Orbus can survive.
The crew decide to flee in an escape pod to try their chances at their original landing site, but at the last minute Spike refuses. Billie impulsively stays with her as well. The two remain in the ship for as long as they can, then camp out when it loses power. Spike sets up a repeating signal bouncing off of the Moon, in the hopes that someday when intelligent life does evolve it may find it and remember them. Eventually Spike runs her batteries down and the ice claims Billie as well.
The middle section of the book is an interlude in the past which highlights the cyclical nature of human excess and our failure to learn from our mistakes even at the cost of our very lives.
Young Billy Crusoe gets left behind on Easter Island when his ship escapes hostile natives. The island was green and rich with life a generation ago but is now completely deforested and barren. The natives have formed two warring factions. Billy meets a fellow European, a Dutch man named Spikkers whose sailor father married a native woman when he was a boy. Spikkers explains what has happened; the natives used every last piece of wood to build and transport the massive stone heads that line the coast. Now they are fighting over them; one faction toppling and shattering the idols in order to release their power.
The two men form a bond, with Spikkers protecting Billy from the natives. Spikkers hopes to end the conflict by becoming the new leader of one of the factions, but is killed in the attempt, closing out this section of the book.
In the third and last part of the book we move to a dystopian future that closely resembles Orbus. Except we are in a period known as Post-3 War, in which late twentieth century cold war politics spun out of control. Our narrator is Billie Crusoe again, she recalls being born to a poor woman who had to give her up as a baby.
She is riding on the train and finds a manuscript called The Stone Gods, she reads some of the text and we recognize it from the first section of the book.
Billie works in Tech City, Robo Sapiens have just been developed by the MORE corporation, but rather than servants for humanity they are hailed as rulers that will prevent further wars. Billie is a scientist who works teaching the Robo Sapiens (named Spike) to understand human nature.
The two bond and eventually Billie impulsively absconds with Spike, and takes her out to Wreck City, which is the run down ghetto area that surrounds the outskirts of Tech City
While at a bar there Spike goes missing and Billie goes searching for her, further into the No-Zone which is forbidden to citizens. She meets a man named Friday and discovers a whole bunch of Alternative zones within the area outside of Tech City, all of them unknown to those who live in the city. She eventually finds Spike, who is safe and not kidnapped but has in fact defected.
From the descriptions we realize this world is the one that evolved from the meteor that was crashed into Planet Blue. Before the war Billie was a scientist working on a signal coming from space, most likely bounced off the moon. She takes Spike and they find a disused radio telescope and Spike manages to detect a repeating signal. She senses it is both very old and very advanced.
Spike wants to stay but Billie wants to return her to the authorities, but before either can prevail troops are sent from Tech City. Friday informs Billie that they have just been waiting for an excuse to crack down. A bloody battle ensues.
Billie and Spike escape back to the radio telescope, which is still picking up the endlessly repeating signal. Spike tells Billie that it was sent during the dinosaur extinction and that it is a line of code for a Robo Sapiens. They decode the message and find it is from the ship that was on Planet Blue.
Billie claims that she wrote the Stone God pages herself but can't finish them because she doesn't know how it ends. She leaves Spike, telling her she will see her again in 65 million years. Walking off she is shot by a soldier and we experience her last moments as a vision of returning home to her farm.
Best part of story, including ending:
The concept of repeating doomed histories due to the perversity of human nature is depressing but conveyed very poetically.
Best scene in story:
I liked when they first arrive on Planet Blue, they go on an absurd picnic in the still pristine planet and are almost killed by the wildlife but still have a good time.
Opinion about the main character:
Billie is patient and compassionate, and does the best with the rather terrible hand that she has been dealt.