, the fifth novel from science fiction writer Linda Nagata, is a thriller right from the start. It opens with a dead body, a mystery and a hint at the possible existence of artificial life forms.
It is the near future; in the very recent past there has been a disaster with an unspecified artificial life-form, a kind of micro-machine that can exist by itself or in symbiosis with humans. This never-explained disaster adds an edge of danger to the book and ensures the reader is sympathetic both to the characters who support, and those who oppose, further research into the artificial life-forms.
Virgil Copeland appropriately named since he will lead humanity on a journey which may be a descent into hell is a researcher working on the life-forms, known as LOVs because they live on the Limits of Vision. Implanted into humans, they function as a feedback system, giving the wearer a new focus. Initially expected only to affect the host's thoughts, the feedback system also intensifies emotions, leading to the possibility of a dangerous emotional rush in the host.
LOVs are illegal on Earth, so Virgil must do his research by proxy on LOV colonies on a space station. Eventually Virgil and the other two members of his research team bring the life forms to Earth in a private experiment of their own.
When Virgil's coworker is found dead in her office, the police suspect the LOVs are involved. What seems impossible is suddenly proved true as the LOVs take over the space station on which they are exiled and bring it crashing down into the ocean near Vietnam's Mekong Delta. Some LOVs manage to survive and all hell seems about to break loose.
Nagata quickly and energetically brings the cities and rural areas of Vietnam to life, then focuses on people on the edge especially those living on ground reclaimed from the delta that will inevitably be swept clean during the next hurricane season. Her writing takes a global view, ranging from those in power to those disenfranchised by international trade. At its heart, this exciting novel questions whether we as a race know where we are going, whether we will take enough time to consider our actions, and whether the individual has any power in the face of governments and transnational corporations. Not bad for a page-turning adventure!Gavin J. Grant writes from Brooklyn, New York.