Science fiction, environmentalism and political activism converge in the continuing adventures of interplanetary heroine Elise t’Hoot.
In this latest series installment, Wall (The Distant Trees, 2013, etc.) adds unexpected layers to her rebels-vs.-totalitarianism saga. The story’s launching point remains Tenembras, a brutally inhospitable prison planet for dissidents and other Earth criminals, which is speeding toward its ecological death. Several resilient, if battered, exiles again team up to improve the planet’s politics, food supply and climate—the last two with the help of treelike beings called Amigos, who have the power to pull water out of the ground and render soil fit for crops. At the center of the action is t’Hoot, a tech-savvy force of nature with a command of science and an uncanny instinct for alien relations that doesn’t always carry over to her dealings with humans. A freak event links her to previously unknown alien beings who demonstrate that humans have no monopoly on class distinctions. In a futuristic deus ex machina, the aliens offer assistance that forever changes the lives of t’Hoot, the rebels and, ultimately, humanity. Wall’s latest novel reveals more complexity in t’Hoot, whose persistence and grit belie a wounded self-image that cripples her more than the bullets she’s survived. Over the course of the story, she learns that dreams can come true but not always in the ways she wants. Dialogue fit for a Howard Hawks film drives—and dominates—the narrative, which unfortunately lacks the nonstop action and excitement of its predecessor, Tenembras (2012). The inventive plot, however, provides sufficient background information to stand on its own, although it has greater appeal and merit in the context of the series as a whole. As in previous installments, Wall includes introductory profiles of her major characters, which helps readers keep track of the series’ sizable cast.
An imaginative sci-fi series installment with thought-provoking parallels to present-day Earth.