This ambitious sci-fi novel follows pioneers on a frontier planet.
Elise t’Hoot, a brilliant female maverick, is the driving force behind integrating human culture with a newly discovered alien race called the Amigos. She and her friends collaborate with the Amigos to tame the hostile planet Tenembras, a penal colony of sorts, with a dangerously thin atmosphere that adds to the risky existence for both its human and alien colonists. Tough, tenacious Elise faces serious challenges when she tries to set down roots on Tenembras. After discovering a surprising connection to a blood relative from her past, she must decide if she’s ready for marriage—then she’s charged with murder. Despite the gloss of future history and high technology, this novel deals with settlers in a harsh wilderness facing recognizable threats and pressures. The well-drawn characters and authentic, straightforward dialogue reflect this believability, even as the story veers into sci-fi territory. The fast-paced adventure develops into a satisfying, energetic yarn about smart, capable people overcoming both natural and man-made challenges. However, the book could benefit from a final, careful proofreading and copy edit, as some flaws—particularly a sprinkling of grammatical errors and punctuation mistakes—stick out and distract from the admirable worldbuilding. Characterizations also have a few rough patches, including Elise herself, who’s something of a distaff Heinlein hero: ultracompetent and nearly always the voice of reason in difficult situations, without the types of flaws and limitations that appear in other characters. There’s also the unappealing tendency of her supporting cast to act as a Greek chorus in support of her actions and beliefs, while her opponents usually remain less developed and thus not quite as formidable as they could be. Despite its flaws, though, this enjoyable volume is a welcome addition to the t’Hoot series.
A well-crafted, colorful tale of bringing life to a future frontier.