Latest in Barnes's series (Candle, 2000, etc.) in which, in an alternate future, the meme (mind-controlling algorithm) Resuna has infected everyone on Earth, binding them into the hive-like intelligence called One True. In 2095, on meme-free Mars, “doc,” the cop/shrink narrator, ponders a message he's received from client Teri Murray, an eco-prospector helping to terraform the hostile surface of Mars. A year previously, Teri lived and traveled with her dad, Telemachus, endlessly reiterating her desire to drop out of school and marry her boyfriend, Perry, before she becomes a legal adult. Dad argues otherwise. They discover a deep pocket of methane—perfect for producing water and greenhouse effects—and thus become stunningly rich. Teri agrees to stay in school and take her adulthood exams; more, she finds that Perry's not only stupid but married to someone else. Getting on with her life, Teri helps dad shepherd a party of youngsters on a training/character-building trek. But then the Sunburst, a withering blast of particles from the sun, zaps communications, satellites, and electronics. Dad and others in the party die from suit malfunctions. Teri, attempting to bring the survivors to safety, encounters a starving and desperate group of gene-engineered Marsform humans. Worse, it's probable that the Sunburst wasn't a natural phenomenon: Mars is under attack from more than one source. It becomes clear, too, that all's far from well with doc.
Thoughtful and absorbing, to begin with; and just when you feel you've had enough of Teri and her problems, the Sunburst propels the story into entirely different dimensions. A winner.