cover image BURNING THE ICE


Laura J. Mixon, . . Tor, $25.95 (544pp) ISBN 978-0-312-86903-8

In this gripping and ingenious SF novel, Mixon (Astro Pilots) takes us some two centuries from now to Brimstone, a planet many light-years from Earth and settled by clones from the starship Exodus, who are trying to terraform the ice-covered world. In the forefront of this effort is Manda, a singleton (one whose cloned twin is dead), restless, inquiring and by local standards something of a sociopath. Enter a rockfall that kills the rest of her siblings and threatens to wipe out the colony from starvation. Also enter one Jim LuisMichael, friend, ally, lover and fellow explorer of the remote reaches of Brimstone. There Jim and Manda discover intelligent alien life, in the form of a gigantic organic computer, as well as a deadly plot against both the aliens and Brimstone by the remaining Exodus crew members. To keep the terraforming going, the "crèche-born" in space are prepared to destroy the aliens, whom Jim and Manda foil at nearly the cost of their own lives. Then only a split in the crèche-born's ranks and the heroic resistance of the colonists keep the crèche-born from winning an outright war. While hardly short of action or fascinating scenes of alien contact, the novel's real strength lies in the author's depiction of the future society, with its complex system of degrees of kinship, social obligations and controls, sexual mores and even appropriate pronouns. The ending may be a little rushed, but the vivid storytelling and a high level of imagination mark this as perhaps Mixon's best work to date. (Aug. 22)

Forecast:Blurbs from Brian Herbert, Frank M. Robinson, Fred Saberhagen and Jack McDevitt will help attract SF fans who go for alien societies in the classic Dune tradition.