Acts of Conscience

William Barton, Author
William Barton, Author Warner Books $12.99 (416p) ISBN 978-0-446-67251-1
Mass Market Paperbound - 400 pages - 978-0-446-60511-3
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With insight and intelligence, Barton (When Heaven Fell) describes a series of moral dilemmas with no easy solutions confronting Gaetan du Cheyne, his bored, troubled 26th-century protagonist. The fortuitous beneficiary of a stockmarket power play, du Cheyne becomes the proud owner of a faster-than-light prototype spaceship with which he plans to explore the starry skies. Wisely, however, Barton resists the urge to turn this into another celestial picaresque, creating instead a deeply disturbing tale of a young man whose past troubles stand in the way of his ability to know or do what is right. In fact, in spite of the spaceship device, Gaetan's journey is a psychological, not a physical one. The ethical challenges he faces all occur on the ironically named world of Green Heaven, where he must decide what, if anything, to do about the systematic destruction of the planet's intelligent species and his discovery of another species' own plans for humanity. There is an intense and intensely pleasurable display of erudition, writerly tact and hard psychological realism as du Cheyne confronts difficult questions about exploitation and survival, evolutionary reality and moral righteousness. There are no obvious answers, but there is a fascinating work of science fiction that easily rises above the stock-in-trade. (Jan.)
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