Addition to Stableford’s expanding future history (The Cassandra Complex, 2001, etc.). Starship Hope took 700 years to reach a habitable planet 58 light-years from Earth, during which time the ship’s multigenerational crew watched over colonists preserved in suspended animation. Recently, however, a revolution has occurred. The crew’s present generation is determined to wake all the colonists and ship them down to the planet as quickly as possible before departing to seek other habitable worlds. But the planet’s purple bioforms do not contain DNA; they’re part animal, part plant, often poisonous, and have no recognizable species—they don’t even have sex! The colonists already down on the planet cannot agree whether humans can adapt to this world—especially when explorers discover a huge abandoned city in the purple-glass jungle. Are these intelligent natives extinct? If not, so goes the argument, should humans attempt to colonize their world? Another complication: one of the researchers exploring the abandoned city, ecologist Bernal Delgado, has been murdered. To this confusing situation wake Matthew Fleury, prophet, broadcaster and Delgado’s replacement, and policeman Vince Solari. Once they arrive at the research outpost, Vince contemplates seven suspects, none of whom shows any interest in identifying the murderer in their midst. Matthew struggles to understand the planet’s “serial chimeras” with their highly complex genetic code, plastic morphology, and constantly shifting genetic relationships, not to mention Delgado’s cryptic notes and the alien artifacts he discovered, among which is the glass spearhead that killed him.
Remarkable and persuasive biological speculations framed by an intriguing human setup: despite the heavy-ish exposition and deliberate pace, this is topnotch intellectual science fiction.