Hypercomplicated, animal-centered SF saga from the author of The Visitor (2002), etc.
By the 28th century, IGY-HFO, a religious-political group espousing human domination as a god-given right, rules Earth—meaning that there’s no longer room for animals. Under the Law of Return, all humans born elsewhere may return to Earth (the colony worlds pay huge bribes to Earth politicians to ensure that the law is maintained) while millions of “concs,” artificial humanoids of limited intelligence but useful as toys, are permitted—and nobody seems to know where they come from. Jewel Delis, a secret arkist (arkists buy suitable planetoids as refuges for the animals banned on Earth) works as a gofer for her sociopathic genius-linguist brother Paul—and she’s also involved with people who’ve secretly bred a bigger, longer-lived variety of dog: creatures smart enough to talk. Paul’s latest job will be on planet Moss, where supposed intelligent natives appear as weird insubstantial lights. Jewel agrees to join him, so long as she can take the dogs along. On Moss, Jewel will find among other things that the “native” Mossen aren’t beings at all, but messages: the true native willogs can’t see, hear, or speak. She’ll also discover human survivors from a ship that crashed centuries before, fall into a metadimension called Splendor that may be the gateway to paradise, and stumble across a deadly power struggle involving humans and several alien species. Nothing, of course, is ever what it appears to be.
Tepper isn’t quite in full control here—there are several elaborations too many—but what she offers is less a book than an absorbing, joyous, enveloping, sometimes all-but-overwhelming experience.