cover image Mappa Mundi

Mappa Mundi

Justina Robson, . . Pyr, $15 (523pp) ISBN 978-1-59102-491-0

British author Robson's third novel to appear in the U.S. (after Natural History and Silver Screen ) maintains throat-tightening suspense from its teasingly enigmatic introduction of its major characters to its painful conclusion that evil will succeed if well-meaning people try to achieve good at any cost. "Matter is only energy with information and identity was only information" is the guiding hypothesis of a number of idealists attempting to improve humanity through "Mappa Mundi," a mind-altering program. FBI specialist Jude Westhorpe, who's part Cherokee, tracks soulless Mikhail Guskov, the mastermind of a plot to steal the program's secrets, while fey genius-level British psychologist Natalie Armstrong fights inner battles against a father she can never please and her own debilitating self-pity. Meanwhile, the CIA and Pentagon work on developing mind-control technology worse than anything George Orwell imagined in 1984 . Shortlisted for the 2001 Arthur C. Clarke Award, this near-future SF thriller presents convincing characters caught in profound moral dilemmas brought home through exquisite attention to plot details and setting. (Sept.)