This science fiction adventure story is set on a planet facing a dire future. As usual, nothing is as it appears.
Pock's World, long settled by humans, has been infected by humanoid aliens. STARS, the consortium that "runs" the star sector, takes this very seriously. Pock's has been quarantined, and may have to be sterilized, which would mean the murder of over 650 million inhabitants. In the past, STARS has done this to other planets.
A group of people are sent to Pock's to examine the evidence. Father Andre has a wide ruthless streak, and visited Pock's a long time in the past. Ratty Turnsole is a muckraking reoprter. Millie Backet is a bureaucrat who, somehow, manages to turn this into the Backet Commission. Athena Fimble is an ambitious politician, and sleazy tycoon Linn Lazuline has a physical relationship going with Fimble. Of course, they all have their own agendas.
Finally reaching Pock's, a place with a barely tolerable climate, the group meets the humanoid alien prisoner. He has been tortured by the guards, but is able to handle pain better than humans. He also claims to be able to impregante men and women pretty easily. Coming from a planet in another sector, if he should be killed, there are millions more where he came from. Think "the next stage in human evolution." Turnsole falls for, and becomes the consort of, Joy, one of the four human incarnations of Mother, the planet's goddess. It seems like it might be pretty easy to build a religion involving a gas giant planet that takes up one-sixth of your sky every day.
The group is stunned to learn that STARS has intentionally disabled an orbiting probe and sent it into a decaying orbit. It will hit and destroy Pock's in four days, and was disabled before the group ever reached Pock's World. It is a geologically unstable world, with earthquakes and volcanoes everywhere. The probe doesn't have to actually destroy the planet; all it has to do is punch a big enough hole in the crust, and the planet's geological instability will do the rest. Another of Mother's human incarnations assures the people that nothing is going to happen. Do all of the members of the group leave Pock's World in time? Do all of them even want to leave?
This is a strong, well-done piece of storytelling. Duncan, a prolific writer, does a very good job with the characters and the society-building.
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About the reviewer
Paul Lappen (plappen)
I am in my early 50s, single and live in Connecticut. I am a lifelong very, very avid reader and am a freelance book reviewer with my ownblog (http://www.deadtreesreview.blogspot.com). Please visit. It … more
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