Email this review


 Utopian tragedy, cast as an open-minded outsider's exploration of a possible, perhaps even probable, future society; by the author of Arslan and Wheel of the Winds. Liss, once a crew member of a nomadic, multigeneration starship, has settled on apparently idyllic Bimran--a planet with a barter economy, no laws, government, crime, or taxes, and one where public works are accomplished by volunteers. Liss becomes known as the ``Rainbow Man,'' because of her unusually colorful garments and because legally she's regarded as a man. Moreover, since only fertile heterosexual couples may marry, and since only married couples may have sex, Liss finds herself barred from intimate relationships. She forms friendships with the unorthodox and challenging Sarelli, with former starshipper Leona, and with Doron, a handsome, soulful Selector. But Liss learns that the function of a Selector is to judge--under lawless Bimran's God- given, inviolable Commandments--those whose behavior strays from the ordinary: the very good get years of electronically maintained Bliss; the evil receive endless agonizing Punishment. Appalled, Liss finds herself ever more at odds with Bimran's implacable Commandments, despite the complication of her increasing, and mutual, love for Doron. Finally, pursued by Selectors who denounce her as a dangerous subversive, Liss flees with Leona to another starship; Doron, refusing to cast off his beliefs, will not join her, and instead remains to face an eternity of Punishment. Despite some problems with the Bimran setup--who selects the Selectors, for instance--Engh deploys her arguments with telling skill and care, and builds the narrative to a shattering climax. Memorable.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-312-85468-4
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Tor
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1993