In Tepper's latest consciousness-raising venture (the splendid Gibbon's Decline and Fall, 1996, etc.), cop Dora Henry investigates three supposedly unrelated and apparently motiveless murders whose victims were all leading geneticists. Dora's husband, Jared, takes no sexual or other interest in her--viewing her as merely a live-in housekeeper. One day a strange weed springs up outside their house. Jared, who loathes disorder, tries to uproot it, but the weed resists and stings him nearly to death. In a matter of days, the weed multiplies into a forest blanketing the suburbs--and Dora finds she can talk with the trees! Encouraged, she leaves Jared and teams up with biologist Abilene McCord. Meanwhile, 3,000 years in the future, a peaceful, low-tech, multi-tribal civilization writhes in turmoil when a dreadful prophecy warns that all intelligent life faces extinction. So a diverse group of travelers--among them magician-polymath Prince Izakar, arrogant Prince Sahir, and harem slave and part-time narrator Nassif--seek the remote Hospice of St. Weel, where, according to the prophecy, some way of averting the catastrophe might be found. The intricate yet exquisitely controlled plot, impossible to summarize but involving time travel, plague, genetic experiments on animals, sorcery, a secret society, and the astonishing identity of the travelers themselves, reveals how, why, and what happens after Nassif and the princes materialize in Dora's newly forested backyard. Beautifully realized, full of delightful surprises and sparkling wit, this out-and-out charmer is unquestionably Tepper's best work so far.