Novels are not the forte of short-story master Tiptree--as demonstrated by the dynamic but inconclusive Up the Walls of the World (1978), and by this second, uneven effort. On planet Damiem live peaceful, winged aliens once subjected to vicious and brutal exploitations: when tortured they exude the priceless liquor called ""Stars Tears."" Now, however, Damiem has three more kindly Earth guardians--lovers Cory and Kip Corso, and sexually frustrated medico Baramji. And, as the wave front of a nearby nova approaches the Damiem system, the three invite a select party of tourists to observe the anticipated celestial fireworks. But: among the tourists are conscienceless criminals bent on obtaining Stars Tears by any means; there's also an alien victim of war crimes who's plotting revenge. So melodrama soon follows, sometimes exciting yet often implausible and artificial: despite clear signs of danger, Cory and Kip vacillate wretchedly, then are quickly put out of action; the decorative but Unconvincing Damiem are tortured in an adjoining room, but nobody suspects; much of the gore is gratuitous. And, despite some fascinating side-issue nuggets--the vengeful alien's civilization and its fate, an amphibious human, time reversals and temporal inertia--this is blotchy and disappointing work overall.