cover image Night Sky Mine

Night Sky Mine

Melissa Scott. Tor Books, $24.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-312-85875-9

Recipient of two successive Lambda Awards for Best Science Fiction/Fantasy Novel (for Trouble and Her Friends, 1994, and for Shadow Man, 1995), Scott here presents a well-developed future rife with cybertechnology, space travel, artificial habitats and asteroid mining. The primary cyber-innovations in this era are hammals, computer programs that function independently, devour each other, reproduce and mutate. Useful but dangerous, they are farmed, captured and altered by hypothecaries and others. The plot line evolves from the mysterious abandonment by its crew of an asteroid owned by the Night Sky Mine company. Cops Rangsey Justine and his male ""contracted partner,"" Sein Tarasov, are drawn into the investigation, as is Kelly 2/1 Ista, found on a similarly abandoned mine and raised by the gypsy-like Travellers. Each character is charming yet fallible, expertly drawn; when the mystery occasionally thins or the action seems forced, they carry the story. Along their way, Scott uses them to raise challenging questions about friendship, responsibility, the nature of technology. Again, Scott explores the ramifications of virtual life through the very human eyes of her principals; this is most artful cyberpunk, told with heart. (Aug.)