cover image Playing God

Playing God

Sarah Zettel. Aspect, $21.5 (417pp) ISBN 978-0-446-52322-6

In the future, the Dedelphi, a race ravaged by eons of warfare, contracts with Earth's Bioverse Corporation to save their planet from ecological disaster. Dr. Lynn Nussbaumer spearheads the massive effort, which involves relocating the planet's entire population to orbiting space cities while Bioverse cleanses the ecosphere with its custom nanotechnology, simultaneously reaping whatever rare organisms and bacteria its workers discover. Meanwhile, Praeis Shin t'Theria, a member of the Dedelphia and a fascinating, credible and humane alien character, has returned with her family from exile to her home planet at the request of the ruling Queens-of-All. The matriarchy suspects that the Bioverse effort may be a trick of their enemy clan, the Getesaph, to kill all t'Theria, and so they command Praeis Shin to shore up whatever support she can for the planet's shaky truce. But despite Nussbaumer's and Praeis Shin's efforts, open fighting erupts, with the Getesaph commandeering one of the space cities. Abduction, corporate betrayal and murder ensue, forcing Nussbaumer to choose between abandoning the Dedelphi to a suicidal fate, enforcing a kind of corporate martial law or opening a dialogue to a truly cooperative effort that would help the Dedelphi save their planet and establish a lasting peace. Readers will embrace this complex, multidimensional saga (Zettel's hardcover debut, and the best of her three novels) not only for its depiction of exotic alien civilization and its action-packed plot but also for its pertinent themes of tribalism, intolerance and ecological disaster. (Nov.) FYI: Zettel's first novel, Reclamation, won the Locus Award for Best First Novel.