cover image Heart of Gold

Heart of Gold

Sharon Shinn. Ace Books, $14.95 (359pp) ISBN 978-0-441-00691-5

Though Shinn's earlier Archangel received considerable praise, this flimsy attempt at crossing romance with SF in an imaginary society that reverses customary gender roles results in a hybrid as sterile and ungainly as a mule. Downright mulish (when not irritatingly mawkish) is Shinn's heroine, Kitrini Candachi, of the blue-skinned indigo matriarchal aristocracy that dominates part of Shinn's ill-defined alien planet. Kit stubbornly loves Jex, the imprisoned terrorist son of king Chay Zanlan, ruler of the planet's lordly male chauvinist ""gulden"" (or golden-hued) race. Shinn's third race, the albinos, silently do most of the menial labor, conveniently freeing Kit and Nolan Adelpho, a sensitive blueskin scientist, to trade angsty episodes of self-doubt and recrimination. Jex's love-'em-and-leave-'em attitude hurls Kit into interminable fits of weeping that seriously impede Shinn's attempt to draw her as a feminist reformer able to cure both major races of the errors of their traditional ways. Unceremoniously dumped by Jex, Kit falls into Nolan's arms while he foils ludicrously villainous attempts by blue and gold leaders to kill off each other's population with race-specific, bioengineered plagues. Blobs of fuzzy sociopolitical preaching clot what little narrative nudges Shinn's two story lines along, while her characters, indigo and gulden alike, seem equally cardboardy--and downright colorless despite their hues. (Apr.)