In this far-future trilogy’s conclusion, a disabled archaeology student–cum–military hero deciphers an alien probe.
In 2789, humanity lives on 1,200 different worlds, everyone teleporting effortlessly among star systems—except the fraction of humans who are born Handicapped, their immune systems viable only on Earth. Eighteen-year-old Jarra’s Handicapped, and although she’s accomplished great archaeological and military feats (Earth Girl, 2013; Earth Star, 2014), she feels trapped on Earth. As Jarra and her boyfriend, Fian, provide critical assistance to the Military in decoding an alien probe, anti-Handicapped hostility escalates to an acid attack and a bombing. Jarra’s and Fian’s combined intellects lead to complex realizations (which are exciting though out of the blue; readers are merely along for the ride): there is a danger to humanity that only Jarra can tackle—and only from a distant planet. To that end, she undergoes an extreme and risky physical operation. It cures her disability. (It also places scientifically necessary lights under her skin, coincidentally making her “more beautiful.”) This wish-fulfillment ending severely undermines the series’ social-justice theme about mistreatment of the Handicapped; moreover, it falls into the literary rut of magical cures, implying that (still-) disabled protagonists and happy endings are a mismatch. Readers captivated by the first two installments’ thrilling archaeological excavations will find them absent here.
Despite an exciting and complex plot, far less special than the first two. (Science fiction. 11-16)