The Collapsium

Book 1 of The Queendom of Sol

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In the eighth decade of the Queendom of Sol, three commodities rule the day.  The first is wellstone, a form of programmable matter capable of emulating almost any substance: natural, artificial, even hypothetical.  The second is collapsium, a deadly crystal composed of miniature black holes, vital for the transmission of information and matter — including humans — throughout the solar system.  The third is the bitter rivalry between Her Majesty’s top scientists.

Bruno de Towaji, famed lover and statesman, dreams of building an arc de fin, an almost mythical device capable of probing the farthest reaches of spacetime.  Marlon Sykes, de Towaji’s rival in both love and science, is meanwhile hard at work on a vast telecommunications project whose first step is the construction of a ring of collapsium around the sun.  But when a ruthless saboteur attacks the Ring Collapsiter and sends it falling into the sun, the two scientists must put aside personal animosity and combine their prodigious intellects to prevent the destruction of the solar system… and every living thing within it.


  • “Best of the Year”
  • Sturgeon Award Nominee
  • Locus Recommended Reading List
  • Borders “Tractor Beam” Best of 2000 List
  • U.S. Patent No. 6,978,070, “Fiber incorporating quantum dots as programmable dopants”
  • Nebula Award Finalist


“Wil McCarthy is a certified science fiction treasure, a real-life rocket scientist with a gorgeous writing style and rapier wit to boot.  [While his] high-concept physics ideas… are deft and fascinating, it’s his characters and story that make The Collapsium a book to savor, a complex and layered story in the grand tradition of science fiction’s masters.”  — Therese Littleton,

“Ingenious and witty… as if Terry Pratchett at his zaniest and Larry Niven at his best had collaborated.”  —  Roland Green, Booklist

“Fresh and imaginative.  From a plausible yet startling invention, McCarthy follows the logical lines of sight, building in parallel the technological and societal innovations.  ‘Our Pick.’ I wanted to visit this Queendom and meet these people.”  — Mark Wilson, Science Fiction Weekly

“The future as McCarthy sees it is a wondrous place. While there are amusing attributes and quirks to McCarthy’s characters, the greater pleasures of this novel lie in its hard science extrapolations.  McCarthy plays us his technical strengths by providing a useful appendix and glossary for the mathematically inclined reader.” — Publishers Weekly

“A fairy tale [with]… the most delicious superscience since Larry Niven’s Ringworld.  Stylistic diversity and hard scientific rigor blended with panache and striking imagination.  McCarthy works hard to draw out pathos and character development.  Genuinely exciting — a wonderful hoot.” — Damien Broderick, The New York Review of Science Fiction

“McCarthy has pushed his work to a new level.  A very deft storytelling touch added to his engineering experience makes The Collapsium a standout novel.  McCarthy has added a lyricism reminiscent of Roger Zelazny to cutting-edge hard science in the manner of Robert L. Forward.” — Fred Cleaver, The Denver Post

“[McCarthy] studs his narrative with far-out scientific concepts that he defends in a series of appendices.  He certainly has a sense of humor.  [Protagonist] Bruno de Towaji… is surely speaking for his creator when he assures another character, ‘Imagination really is the only limit.'” — Gerald Jonas, The New York Times

“[A] comedy of manners about High Physics, immortality, mad scientists, and murder.  Great fun [with a] Wodehouse-meets-Doc-Smith aesthetic.  As ingenious as the physics and special effects are, it is their juxtaposition to the wit and comedy that gives the novel its particular flavor.  [A] playful, thoughtful book.” — Russell Letson, Locus

“Top notch.  Terribly good fun.  This very funny book has something for everyone.” — Niko Silvester, Entertainment Tomorrow

“McCarthy knows his physics, and makes it extremely easy to suspend disbelief.  He creates a world that is both foreign and amazing… but in McCarthy’s hands it appears all but inevitable.” — J.M. Frank, Mindjack Magazine

“Quite entertaining.  The science is larger-than-life, and so are the characters.” — Rich Horton, SF Site

“I don’t recall the last time a book made me laugh out loud.  I did so here on page 146, and at the book’s end I did so again… though my eyes were moist as well.  McCarthy has created a story here that is distinctly Asimovian in flavor, though his voice is very much his own.” — Ernst Lilley, SFrevu

“Prepare to use your grey matter.  [McCarthy] fills his pages with lovingly rendered descriptions… but it is the strength of his scientific imagination that really shines through.” — Rob Williams, SFX Magazine (UK)

“A most dazzling future.  What follows is a mind-spinning  struggle that recalls a Henry Fielding novel of manners, Michael Moorcock’s epic sagas and the cosmic free-for-alls of Doc Smith.  There’s fascinating science aplenty, mad scientists, robots running amok…  What more could you want?” — Terry Dowling, The Weekly Australian

“A decidedly odd but enjoyable mix of mannered, decadent comedy and far-out physics.  I liked and was even prepared to believe in [it].” — David Langford, Ansible (UK)

“Exceptionally enjoyable.  McCarthy’s writing is bright and sparkling, humorous and romantic.  I was enthralled… [and] it all turned out very well indeed.  Make a point of reading this.”  — SF Reviews

“The author of Bloom once again demonstrates his talent for mind-expanding sf. Vibrant with humor, drama, 
and quirky ideas.  Highly recommended” — Library Journal