Upheaval and strife in a far-future feminist utopia, thoughtfully set forth by the author of The Postman (1985), Earth (1990), etc. On planet Stratos, long isolated from the Human Phylum, women are dominant politically, numerically, and sexually; the most successful women clone themselves to create extended aristocratic families. Only in summer, when the male sexual response peaks, are natural conceptions permitted. Of these births, the boys--excluded from power--assume traditional male occupations like seafaring and piloting, while the girls--``vars''--must compete fiercely for the few openings available to non-clones. The system, stable for hundreds of years, is now threatened by renewed contact with the Human Phylum: ambassador Renna's arrival on Stratos is forcing the ruling families to new intrigues and evaluations, power struggles and realignments. Caught up in the general turmoil, young var Maia- -events are seen from her point of view--acquires survival skills in a hurry, discovering within herself unexpected talents for navigation and problem-solving. The exotic Renna, so unlike the native men, fascinates her. When both are kidnapped by the same revolutionaries, Maia learns from Renna that what she has been taught of history is largely false. Together, the two discover hidden machines and factories surviving from a time before the clones, when men and women fought side by side to repel alien invaders. Finally, Renna dies attempting to escape back to his orbiting ship, while a new and wiser Maia finds herself the object of intense scrutiny by Stratos's ruling clans. Tremendously hard-working, impressive in scope, and cleverly diagrammed, though patchy, dreadfully long-winded, and ultimately done in by characters that never swim into focus. Brin simply has overreached himself.