NIGHT SKY MINE by Melissa Scott


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 Scott's Shadow Man (1995) seriously probed the basis of sexual identity and politics, to the relative neglect of character and plot; the author's new venture, a solidly crafted far-future cyberspace yarn, begins on planet Bestla, where cops (and lovers) Justin Rangsey of External Affairs and Sein Tarasov of the Technical Squad, are assigned by Devora Macbeth of the elite Patrol to investigate why an orbiting mine complex was abandoned, puzzlingly, by its crew. Local cyberspace, the ``invisible world,'' has spawned evolving, reproducing, independently interacting programs called ``hamals''; these, charmingly, mimic the behavior and appearance of plants and animals. Rangsey and Tarasov proceed, undercover, to the Orbital Agglomeration, where they meet Ista Kelly, an orphan found on another abandoned mine years ago. A series of such incidents has occurred, it emerges, with the details having been suppressed by the Night Sky Mine Co. Ista, an apprentice ``hypothecary,'' trawls through the invisible world in search of programs that can be tamed, neutered, edited, and put to work--but all hypothecaries fear the eventual appearance of a ``demogorgon,'' an AI precursor program so powerful that it will gobble up the invisible world and any other computer net it has access to. The investigators discover that a highly placed conspiracy within NSMCo is using the captured mines to breed feral programs; and, so Ista suspects, they may have already accidentally created a demogorgon. Mature, balanced, absorbing work, with a richly detailed, enchanting backdrop: something of a breakthrough in overall technique, and Scott's best so far.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-312-85875-2
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Tor
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1996


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