Alien-contact yarn from the author of, most recently, the Probability Trilogy (Probability Space, p. 1000, etc.). With the Earth in dire straits, billionaire Jake Holman and his manager, Gail Cutler, built a starship and, taking along various groups who could afford to pay—Arab royalty, wannabe Cheyenne, New Quakers, Chinese, the Cutler clan—flew to planet Greentrees, where they established Mira City. Then the colonists discover the Furs, apparently intelligent but puzzlingly passive and incurious; stranger still, the Furs aren't native to Greentrees! Another Fur group seems to be permanently intoxicated; yet another clashes violently with the Cheyenne. An alien ship approaches, decelerating at a staggering 100 gravities. The colonists' supposed protector, Captain Scherer, attempts to destroy the alien ship; one of Scherer's men shoots two aliens as they emerge from their shuttlecraft. Despite all this, the weird, plant-like, peaceful Vines are willing to talk. The Vines are fighting with the xenophobic Furs, using captured Fur ships though eschewing the Fur weapons. The Greentrees Furs are Vine experiments in breeding nonviolent Furs. But then a Fur ship arrives, blasting the Vine ship and the humans' shuttlecraft. Jake, Gail, and others are herded aboard the Fur ship and taken to another planet, where the Furs maroon them: they must befriend more Vines and somehow destroy the force field that protects the Vines' homeworld. If Jake refuses to cooperate, the Furs will annihilate Mira City—and then seek out and blast the Earth.
Life-sized characters with personal and cosmic preoccupations, tense and knotty if sometimes uneven plotting, and Kress's usual abundance of ideas: gripping, challenging work, a reassuring return to top form.