CRUCIBLE

Author(s): 

Jake Holman, trying to escape a murky past, brought together a diverse group of colonists to settle on a new world. Instead of the uninhabited land they expected, the humans found themselves caught in the crossfire of a galactic war between the aggressive, militaristic humanoids known as Furs and the plantlike creatures known as Vines.

Siding with the peaceful Vines, the colonists face off against the technologically superior Furs. Their greatest hope is a virus designed to destroy the Furs' aggressiveness. The disparate colonists soon discover, however, that their greatest enemy is not the aliens but each other.

This sequel to Crossfire renews the ethical and moral dilemmas of its predecessor, as the human colonists struggle to find their place in a vast cosmos. The plot takes some surprising turns as the consequences of altering an entire race, even with the best of intentions, start to sink in. A large cast and multiple point-of-view jumps occasionally make the progression of the story difficult to follow, but on the whole Kress' narrative technique is effective. The readers get to know several characters very well and sympathize with their choices.

Kress definitely has a social agenda, which is not always smoothly integrated, and the tone is occasionally preachy. Still, this is an exciting SF novel that will lead the reader into unexplored territory. (Aug., 384 pp., $24.95)
Reviewed by: 
Jen Talley Exum