More challenging feminist science fiction from the author of the brilliant The Family Tree (1997), etc. On planet Newholme, men outnumber women two to one; Men of Business must therefore pay, handsomely, for a woman’s reproductive services and for expert-lover Consorts (Hunks) to provide sexual pleasure for their wives. To avoid arousing insatiable female lusts, all men wear veils. “Invisible” creatures--actually native tim-tims, aspects of a planetary consciousness--do the routine work, but since they appeared only after the human colony was established, everybody agreed to ignore them. Newholme, however, is threatened by increasingly violent earthquakes and eruptions; a conjunction involving all six of the planet’s moons will soon occur and possibly destroy the planet altogether. Worse, the galactic Council of Worlds is sending an ethical arbiter called the Questioner, a half-human, half-computer android, to investigate; and since native life-forms take absolute priority, the colonists have reason to fear the Questioner’s judgments. Complicating the picture still further are the Wasters, survivors of the first, all-male, colony ship; these men, insane by most standards, were mutated by the planet itself but still intend to reconquer what they regard as theirs. Key to the developing drama will be young Mouche, a Hunk-in-training with a sensitivity to the tim-tims in general and to the sylphlike Flowing Green in particular. Out of this sensitivity must arise a meeting of the minds between Mouche, the Questioner, Kaorugi the planetary consciousness, and the huge spacegoing alien Quaggima that’s embedded itself in the planet’s crust, causing the earthquakes. Tepper has tremendous fun with her sex-role reversals, even when her purpose is deadly serious: Despite the clutter, stir in lashings of caustic wit--and the upshot won’t just raise your consciousness, it’ll blow the top right off.