Another hypercomplicated, problematic amalgam of fantasy, science fiction, and Message, from the author of Sideshow, Beauty, etc. Long after most of humankind has left for the stars, or so tradition has it, ``manland'' consists of isolated farms whose sons soon run off to the ``cities''--in reality, slums ruled by barbaric gangs. In Artemisia, a new order of society is developing: numerous co-operatives cherish the land and strive to restore its vanished ecosystems. Misfits congregate in the archetypal villages, home to Princesses, Oracles, Orphans, Bastards, Huntsmen, etc. Technological civilization persists in the Edges, but their barriers are impenetrable. And the remnants of ancient aristocratic families dwell in the Place of Power, which boasts a nuclear reactor and three huge, mysterious thrones. Thus, farmboy Abasio duly runs off to the city, joins a gang, and becomes involved with Olly, an ex-Orphan fleeing from an archetypal village, now in search of a prophecy's fulfillment. Meanwhile, the megalomaniac Quince Ellel of the Place of Power sends forth horrid android ``walkers'' to capture Olly, whom she needs to pilot a space shuttle to retrieve ancient weapons. The Artemisians become involved, as do the ancient creatures occupying the thrones, not to mention a talking Coyote and a Bear.... All this is but the merest hint of what's going on here. Despite Tepper's manifest imagination and literary talents, she has never learned how to focus her efforts, or discriminate among competing strands of material: it all goes in regardless. So the upshot, while panoramic and often absorbing, is full of distractions, and so preoccupied with worthy Messages that you can almost hear the halos being polished.