This is the best yet from Nancy Kress - captivating people and aliens entangled in a plot that revolves around hard-core physics: strong forces and quantum mechanics. I've read books before that used some of this stuff, but Kress makes me want to go find a textbook and read more about it, she makes it sound so interesting!
The key concept that drives the book is the perception of reality; what if there were a way for people (read sentient beings) to genuinely share reality? If a thing is true, everyone 'sense' that truth; there can be no liars, no deceptions, no deviations. What would it be like to live in such a society?
Kress has a team of Human scientists come to study the world where Shared Reality is a fact. They include David Allen, a young, ambitious, clueless intern with an influential father, who is under the mistaken impression that he's gotten his position on his own merits. The rest of the team is a female xenobiologist, a male geologist, a mathematician, and a military physicist.
The military has another agenda, however; Humans are at war, and this planet has a strange moon that our side hopes to use in the larger conflict. The military has not changed; they are reluctant to tell the scientists what they are up to, and have no plans to tell the local population anything.
The locals are represented by Enli, a native who has the equivalent of deafness; she suffers from headaches, and does not share reality as fully as a normal person. We also meet a local wily trader, on the lookout for ways to increase his own wealth (sharing reality does not mean becoming some kind of saints).
The sweep of plot, with the Humans and aliens on a crash course that could easily lead to disaster, and does bring about tragic consequences, is compelling, complex, and beyond reducing to a few lines in a short review. The revelations, along with the action, were fascinating, and intriguing. I have never seen another book or story with quite this spin.
This one is highly recommended, an excellent read, and ought by rights to be a Nebula and Hugo contender.
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