Forced to accompany a commercial expedition to a dangerous, distant planet, business negotiator Leyden finds himself caught in civil strife, intrigue, and romance within a tree-dwelling primitive culture.
Perched on the edge of the solar system, the Illium Archipelago has drastically changed humankind’s destiny. A gateway to myriad distant star systems, it has enabled a vast-reaching trading network as well as venture capitalists, reaching worlds now populated by descendants of early human explorers. Leyden, a disgraced businessman with a weakness for the ladies, is sprung from prison by a Rigelian syndicate so that his negotiating skills can help the dubious “Eëlios Biological Mission.” His trek to a seldom visited, remote planet is part of their plan to exploit the planet’s fertile rainforest. But a botched landing on Eëlios is accompanied by acts of sabotage, murder, and unmanned-drone attacks, a dead giveaway that the team—a mix of mercenaries, scientists, and quavering Leyden—have secret, ruthless competition in the field. The century-old “native” colony on Eëlios—they’re green-skinned folk who dwell in the giant forest canopy—uneasily embrace Leyden, who begins to transform bodily and emotionally. While very little happens that can’t be predicted (or storyboarded for Hollywood), Cincotta’s novel ably guides the reader through a verdure of lush landscapes featuring sketches of borderline-pulp characters, including double-dealing warriors and a seductress. The exotic deep-space adventure echoes genre landmarks, notably James Cameron’s Avatar and the like, while one of his supporting characters shares a similar name with Hayao Miyazaki’s eco-friendly heroine Nausicaa (or perhaps her Greek forebear from The Odyssey). Still, the derivatives seldom wilt the basic entertainment factor of this well-cultivated yarn.
Tree-hugging sci-fi—familiar stuff that still grows on you.