cover image The Shapes of Their Hearts

The Shapes of Their Hearts

Melissa Scott. Tor Books, $22.95 (304pp) ISBN 978-0-312-85877-3

Taped from the fanatic brain of the prophet Gabril Aurik and melded into an artificial intelligence on the blockaded planet Eden, a wiseacre CyberGod called the Memoriant threatens to wreck the interstellar cybernetwork knitting Scott's latest far-future civilization together. Aurik's loathing for human cloning and the DNA-warping FTL drive bars his cold-eyed Children from leaving Eden, but they smuggle out copies of the Memoriant to spread their inquisitional faith. When Anton Tso, a cloned scion of a powerful criminal family on nearby Jericho, sets out to pirate a copy, the local Theologians trap him in virtual space, necessitating a lengthy conventional rescue involving Eden rebels led by Tso's bodyguard, clone Renhi DaSilva, a high-tech Emma Peel. Scott's colorful setting is Eden's grungy Freeport, where hyperrock Steel musicians scarf greasy fries and Auxiliary policemen ham-handedly juggle conflicting moral obligations. Less compelling are Tso's interminable attempts to escape his virtual prison and Scott's frustratingly awkward character names. No matter how glitzy, virtual reality just can't vivify Scott's provocative vision, a future where a human-made God sets out to make humanity's other creations irrelevant. (June)