Sunward is the first sourcebook for the Eclipse Phase game, and like the title implies it describes the “Sunward” part of the solar system – that is, everything from the Sun itself out to the beginnings of the asteroid belt near Mars. Like the core book, it’s quite excellent and contains a ton of information.
The first item here is the sun itself. While obviously ridiculously hostile to life in any form, some extreme biomods still exist in the sun’s close vicinity. Somewhat like “space whales” in shape and also lifestyle, they use hitech methods of avoiding heat damage and form strange societies in a place where not much else can live. After than we get Mercury, which is one of the more extreme planets in the solar system. Here, groups of miners race the dividing line between the scorching sun and the freezing shadow, trying to extract valuable minerals while always keeping on the move. It’s a cool idea, with lots of game potential.
Next up is Venus. Venus is hellish on its surface, with temperatures hot enough to melt lead and the perpetual darkness (due to cloud cover) hiding both acid rain and valuable minerals. Suprise surprise, there get mined too – though this time by bioforms designed to tolerate the conditions, with remotely uploaded “people” running them. All this is mostly run by the hypercorps, or by the Morningstar Consortium, a newish power intent on both developing a power core of its own, filling the Venusian upper atmosphere with floating cities (think Cloud City in Empire Strikes Back), and fighting the hypercorps on many levels. The politics here get complex, and the Venusian floating cities make good places for the PCs to visit (or have their home in, for that matter).
Then it’s Earth and the Moon (or Luna, as it is now called). Earth remains a hostile, quarantined wasteland, though we get more details here on both the quarantine zone and the dangers on the surface – it’s obvious that some people survived, though the hypercorps do their best to suppress this information. It’s also obvious that some hypercorps (and other parties) are running covert operations on the surface. Luna, on the other hand, it solid, (reasonably) safe and civilized. The cities are underground, and some of them are huge. There is a lot of detail here, and Luna is clearly meant to be a strong contender for an origin point for PCs.
After Earth, it’s Mars, naturally enough. Mars is interesting; lots of “frontier” feel, and well-grounded resistance to hypercorp domination. There are still dormant TITAN leftovers here, and between those and the vast and fairly hostile desert, it provides lots of opportunities for PCs to vanish from prying eyes. For some reason Mars tends to be pictured in a “Wild West” tone in many scifi books and games, but it works very well here and provides and counterpoint to the sterile and corporate-controlled environs of Venus and Luna.
Lastly, there is some description of the first fringes of the asteroid belt(s). Some nice locations here, but there’s not a huge amount of material – I expect more of this stuff from the upcoming book detailing the rest of the solar system. The book also contains some NPC templates and new biomorphs suitable for the locations described here.
It’s a great book, and well written; instead of reading like a gazetteer, it’s written in a very entertaining fashion (told with several quite different narrator voices, representing different NPCs with different agendas and biases). Sure, it’s a hodgepodge of lots of scifi ideas from all over, but it’s mostly coherent and the sum total is a very entertaining and interesting game world.