Maryelizabeth Hart, co-owner, Mysterious Galaxy Books, San Diego, Calif.

On days when news of the state of the world is particularly grim, I've been known to lament, “When are Sheri Tepper's aliens getting here?” In several novels, that's her solution to humanity's continuing inability to behave in a manner befitting a sentient species: she sends in aliens with superior technology to fix things. In The Margarets (Morrow, June), there are still too damn many humans, with the result that the planet's sole useful export is indentured servants and slaves. When it's clear that drastic measures are in order, it takes one extraordinary woman, assisted by forces that favor humanity, to save our species. Tepper's recurring themes of gender roles, religion and concern for the environment all contribute significant threads to the story's weft, suited for anyone who appreciates authors like Elizabeth Bear and Kim Stanley Robinson. This is Tepper's first novel since The Companions, and was worth the wait.