John Barnes, Author . Tor $24.95 (315p) ISBN 978-0-7653-0303-5

Barnes (Candle) is up to his old tricks in creating a sharp novel that is not about who or what readers will think it is and that comes with a perfect, unexpected ending. Teri-Mel, a human growing up on the harsh, wild frontier of Mars, is in trouble—the kind of trouble a special shrink has to deal with. As the doctor plays recordings of previous sessions with Teri-Mel, he discovers that even listening to her story can have unexpected consequences. Circling around an unnamed tragedy, the recordings tell of life in a spacesuit on the unprotected surface of Mars, "ecospecting" with her father to help make the planet fully habitable. They reveal a rough girl maturing into "Full Adult" status both legally and emotionally. Teri's future is uncertain: though she may get rich from a big ecospecting "scorehole," she may have to return to dreaded CSL school, while her fiancé is becoming increasingly distant. As always, Barnes's characters are beautifully natural. His sense of how the conditions of a place can create a culture and individual sensibilities is outstanding, and here he even allows his slang to evolve. Readers new to Barnes's work may be a bit confused by the ever present threat of One-True—the computer virus that has taken over the minds of the inhabitants of Earth—but enough information about it is leaked over time for them to catch on. As with every work by Barnes, this book should be read by anyone interested in vivid near-future worlds, engaging characters and moral questions with no simple answers. (Aug. 8)

Reviewed on: 07/22/2002
Release date: 08/01/2002
Ebook - 320 pages - 978-1-4299-7067-9
Mass Market Paperbound - 320 pages - 978-0-7653-4222-5
Peanut Press/Palm Reader - 978-0-312-70751-4
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