"On the ocean planet No-Moon, Second-Best Sailor contentedly lives the life of a mariner plying his trade with visiting space-dwelling Neanderthals. When his reefwife discovers that a mission fleet has targeted their homeworld for conversion, his comfortable lifestyle vanishes in an instant." "Servant-of-Unity XIV Samuel has cheerfully devoted his life to the grand wonder that is Cosmic Unity, and all he desires is to help spread its message of universal harmony to a grateful galaxy. But Samuel's awe turns to horror when he uncovers Cosmic Unity's darkest truth." "At its core, Cosmic Unity is a lovely, seductively gentle religion stating that all creatures - whether born of flesh, silicon, superconducting gases, or magnetic plasma - are equal and deserve tolerance. Yet over 22,500 years and spread by a vast hierarchy, the simple concept has mutated into a malignant and violent memeplex - heretics will not be tolerated." "Bereft of faith and rebelling against the Ecclesiarchs, Samuel is shattered and confused when he stumbles upon Second-Best Sailor, fleeing from his threatened home to a potential new habitat. Flung together by fate and supported by the Neanderthals' host of traders, Second-Best Sailor and Samuel plot a kamikaze plan to fight off the invaders. Along the way, they will need the help of the unlikeliest and most fascinating of allies." But can they bring down an idea that has destroyed everything across tens of thousands of light-years?
Intellectual playfulness and lively writing propel British authors Stewart and Cohen's second SF novel (after 2000's Wheelers), with its exuberant picture of a galaxy full of wildly different intelligent beings. Space is also littered with the potentially dangerous relics of the Precursors, an extinct race whose science was so advanced that it resembled magic. To keep these tools or weapons out of the wrong hands, the church of Cosmic Unity tries to join all races in peaceful cooperation. That's how Servant-of-Unity XIV Samuel sees the situation, even though nomadic Neanderthal star traders and aquatic natives of the planet No Moon distrust Cosmic Unity's methods. By the time Sam realizes that Cosmic Unity's version of heaven resembles a hell designed by Hieronymus Bosch, a lot of suffering has occurred and more is on the way. Since this is basically a novel of ideas, readers will forgive some underdeveloped characters and actions, as the authors focus on big, juicy chunks of extrapolation. Apparently the reverse of the old saying is true: for evil to triumph, it's only necessary for good men to try to do everything. Since that's an unfortunately timely message, the book is not just a satisfying brainteaser but actually might make readers think. Agent, Ashley Grayson. (May 11) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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April 29, 2005
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