The Crystal Cosmos is a novella clocking at about 80 pages but pulling the weight of a book triple its size; I would say that extended to about 150 pages it would have been a masterpiece, but even so it’s a very, very good read.
It’s partly wacky space opera, partly planet adventure and partly satire with a two threaded storyline that converges and intertwines delightfully.
In one thread on a strange Earth-like planet but with some notable differences that I leave to the reader to discover, the “natural philosophers” and official dogma have a view of the Universe sort of like the science one today – material, uncreated, chaotic, no gods, billions of stars, the Earth revolves around the Sun – and it takes young goat shepherd Daphnis, uneducated but with a sharp mind. to perform experiments that show that actually some objects fall faster than others, the Earth is flat and the Sun revolves in a fixed and rigid orbit…
The Ptolemaic model of the Solar System and more generally the clockwork universe theory actually holds, so God or gods *must* exist since after all who created and started it, but it is heresy to claim so and Daphnis may find himself on “death row” if his claims become widely known.
In the other thread in a Multiverse analogue of our Earth, Sappho Ritsos an operative of the official “Trust” that supervises faster than light travel using the “altwhere” “drive” and protects the rights of the “natives” and their planets, teams with highly manipulative famous prospector Cankar who claims he found a Solar System made of a diamond like substance and wants mining rights.
Dense and worth at least one re-read I liked this novella a lot, but I felt a bit cheated of a masterpiece since 80 pages are just not enough to do justice to the wealth of ideas introduced here.
Highly, highly recommended if you can get a hold of a copy.