by Robert Reed
Review by Chris Ferrier
The plot of Sister Alice spans millions of years. Originally published as five individual stories from 1993 to 2000, the different sections were rewritten for the novel and each in turn moves the plot foreword across millennia.
In the far future of the galaxy, one thousand individuals are tested, selected and genetically enhanced. They became the founders of the Great Families. Through their work, the galaxy-wide Great Wars that threatened all of human existence are finally ended. Their leadership brings about the Ten-Million-Year Peace. In return, their success brings them wealth and power far beyond the reach of average citizens.
Then Alice, a member of the Chamberlin Family, joins a group of scientists at the galactic core. According to quantum theory, new universes bubble up out of the existing one, are briefly connected to it by an umbilical cord, and then break away. The scientists manage to capture a baby universe and attempt to open the umbilical cord wide enough for a soul to pass through while at the same time preventing any of the new universe from entering the old one. They fail. When the two meet, disaster follows. The vast energies released destroy large numbers of worlds and their populations.
Only Alice Chamberlin returns to Earth from the Core. Only she accepts blame for the accident. She is imprisoned for her part in the disaster. As a result of her actions, the Chamberlin Family loses its status among the Great Families and it is reviled by the average citizen.
Before her imprisonment, Alice visits her clone brother, Ord, the baby of the family line. She manages to give him important information. He is either too young to understand it or it is blocked from his mind until it is needed.
While Alice's actions set the events in the novel in motion, the plot was about Ord's attempts to restore the family honor. First, a much older Ord must escape from the Chamberlin Family compound on Earth. Then, his quest takes him across vast quantities of time and space. He is both helped and hindered by two long time friends/enemies. Ravleen is a member of the warrior Sanchex Family and Xo is a member of the calculating Nuyen Family. Both of them are manipulated by carefully orchestrated mind control used by their respective families. Ravleen hates Ord. She relentlessly pursues him and tries to destroy him. Xo tries to discover Ord's plans so he can betray him.
Ord's ultimate destination is the galactic core where the baby universe is contained and a final meeting with Sister Alice.
The use of the individual stories allow the plot to move foreword and backward across time and space following the action. Because of their great life spans, the members of the Great Families continue as characters from one section to the next. They are Olympian in their powers and passions. The plot has action and intrigue in abundance.
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