What if James Dean were a twin-tailed manta ray swimming in Jupiter's atmosphere? Bestselling Star Wars
novelist Zahn (Angelmass) gives us a tale of teen coming-of-age angst set in the herd society of the Qanska, intelligent herbivores who inhabit the equatorial band of the gas giant. Suspecting them to be non-native life, Earth's corporate masters, the Five Hundred, send in a spy to find their hidden star drive. Facing their own disaster, the Qanska agree, hoping to gain a human perspective on the impending exhaustion of their ecology. What neither side can count on is how the person injected into the Qanskan world will react. Matt Raimey, a 22-year-old paralyzed by a skiing accident, agrees to have his brain transplanted into a Qanska fetus. Given a second chance to be mobile, he also unexpectedly gets another chance to mature. Zahn concentrates more on the psychological processes at work than on the technological. Solutions to problems arise from better emotional and intellectual integrity, not simply larger databases. While the author doesn't get as deep into his characters as they do into Jupiter's depths, his portrayal of Matt/Manta is direct and involving. Qanskan life, looking much like marine reef life on Earth, is intriguingly portrayed, even if the biology of the Qanskan problem is suspect. YA readers looking for more than the usual SF action-adventure should be well pleased. (Oct.)
FYI:The author's "Cascade Point" won the Hugo Award for best novella in 1984.