It is the second stage of human colon-ization--the first age, humanity's initial attempt to people the stars, ended in disaster when it was discovered that Earth's original superluminal drive did permanent genetic damage to all who used it--mutating Earth's far-flung colonists in mind and body. Now, one of Earth's first colonies has given humanity back the stars, but at a high price--a monopoly over all human commerce. And when a satellite in earth's outer orbit is viciously attacked by corporate raiders, an unusual young woman flees to a ship bound for the Up-and-Out. But her narrow escape does not mean safety. For speeding across the galaxy pursued by ruthless, but unknown adversaries, this young woman will discover a secret which is buried deep inside her psyche--a revelation the universe may not be ready to face....
In a far-future interstellar society, star travel is monopolized by the Outspace Guild, which controls the only method of faster-than-light travel that doesn't result in horrible mutations among the star travelers. Now a deadly software virus is attacking Guild members, so the Guild's investigators, led by Dr. Masada, must learn where it came from and how to defeat it before interstellar society breaks down. Meanwhile, a young woman, Jamisia Shido, has to flee for her life from a space habitat near Earth, where all mutations are forbidden and launched, if discovered, into Guild-controlled interstellar space. Secret illegal therapy for a disaster that killed her parents has left Jamisia with an acute form of multiple-personality disorder?and may have made her the key in the fight against the virus. The plot of this stout novel is simple, with few really original details, and the Guild and Jamisia subplots fail to connect until far into the story. Still, Friedman (the Coldfire trilogy) keeps her tale moving at a vigorous pace that's boosted through an abundance of well-chosen details, such as those accruing to the characterization of Jamisia's unruly guest personality. The novel may read like a cross between cyberpunk and Star Wars, but it is likely to hold readers' interest tenaciously. The ending neither requires nor precludes a sequel, so readers are left with some hope of again encountering Jamisia and the duel between the Guild and Earth that backdrops her adventures.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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June 30, 1999
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