Peterson’s debut sci-fi novel, Gardeners of the Universe, begins in the not too distant future with the births of three children destined to change the world. Rianne grows up to lead biological revolutions. Dan creates sentient computers and guides the direction of human evolution. Sarah, in an age of information dissonance, becomes the most trusted individual on Earth, and convinces the world that it must change. What sets the three apart from the rest of humanity are genetics and “gifts” that were no accident.
The book shows how the children and their totally different families adapt to disruptive new technologies in transportation, medicine, communication, as well as global catastrophe. The focus is on how people will change themselves, through mechanical devices, augmented intelligence, and ultimately altering our genetics, and how these shifts will affect real people.
As humanity struggles, an ancient alien species, the Torae, a.k.a. the “Gardeners,” have come to observe our “transcendence.” They are desperately trying to create new universes to populate. The three young humans are unknowingly conscripted into their schemes while guiding the Earth through the most dangerous and consequential time in its history—the 21st century. This is a story about the profound vision, adaptability, and truth we will need to survive.
After graduating from Caltech and receiving his PhD in condensed matter physics from the University of Illinois in 1972, Ron Peterson worked his way to near the top at Honeywell, speaking for the entire company’s new product strategy as Vice President of Technology. He began writing Gardeners of the Universe for young people, showing them the joys and dangers certain to unfold during their lifetimes. In early 2018, he published An Introvert Learns to Fly: A Memoir of Timidity, Panic, Science, Leadership, and Love. He manages one of the largest community gardens in Minnesota, the Rice Street Gardens, where more than 260 gardeners have plots. For the past several years he has also led “Grandpa Camp” for his six young grandchildren, where he has introduced them to quantum mechanics, differential equations, cooking, photography, and travel experiences. Ron lives with his wife, Miriam, in Minnesota, where she tries to keep his feet on the ground while his head remains in the stars.
“In Peterson’s . . . novel, godlike aliens give three Earth children extraordinary gifts to guide humanity’s technological and social progress. The Torae, an ancient, advanced alien race who consider themselves stewards of all intelligent life, judge Homo sapiens to be a promising species for development. They imbue three American children with vast mental abilities Californian Rianne, a budding bioengineer; working-class Minnesotan Dan, a computer prodigy; and insightful Sarah, a Virginian who’s a natural diplomat and ethicist. Via intermittent direct communication with the Torae, and through their own maturation, the three lead humankind to radical technological and conceptual breakthroughs. But there’s a complication that not even the far-seeing Torae imagined: the Unity, a spacefaring, insect-like race who have the astounding ability to manipulate tiny black holes. The Torae judge the Unity to be a galaxy-threatening pest and launch a war of extermination against them. When the existence of Earth is threatened, the children’s mission becomes even more urgent. Most of the leapfrogging narrative involves Rianne, Dan, and Sarah as adults. Over the course of their lives, they witness mankind’s implantation with communication devices; fight a cyber-based world war; create new life; and medically unlock secrets of immortality.
“Peterson has an impressive background—he’s a physicist and the former vice president of technology at Honeywell—and his expertise comes through in his highly ambitious sci-fi debut, which offers serious speculation into the future of humanity. At the same time, however, the story never feels didactic or constrained by an agenda to educate readers with techno-speak. Instead, the author manages to juggle a large ensemble cast while clearly exploring the ramifications of each paradigm shift within the suspenseful narrative. . . .
“A fluid, grand-canvas, peripatetic future-history adventure.” —Kirkus Reviews
“This book presents the author's dreams and nightmares about the future, and some seem all too plausible.”—Michael Beeson, Professor Emeritus of Mathematics and Computer Science at San Jose State University
“An excellent tale of the future for teens and adults alike.” —Leo Fisher, avid reader age 13, Robinsdale, MN
“Cracking good read. In one orthogonal universe this was mindcast by the BBC as historical fact.” —Jim Read, rogue engineer and rancher, Concho AZ
“Ron Peterson’s sci-fi epic offers a suspenseful vision of humanity in the future, in a struggle for survival on a doomed planet.” —Henri Hodara, scientist, entrepreneur, and editor-in-chief of Fiber & Integrated Optics, Dana Point, CA
“Gardeners of the Universe, Ronald Peterson's first novel, is a great read. The grandness of scale is reminiscent of Ender's Game. Once you get into it, you won't want to put it down. I hope this is the first of many novels by Peterson.” —Mary J. Landy, Indianapolis, IN
“I am a physicist by training, one more acquainted with scientific reality than science fiction. Yet I must say that I thoroughly appreciated Dr. Ron Peterson's book. First, it was correct in the science. He can talk about Caltech scientists because he studied there. He is an expert in much of what forms the background of the book and it shows. This would be an excellent book for any of my high school students thinking about a career in science or technology. The future will be exciting and there is still much work to be done.” — Steven B. Landy, Indianapolis, IN