Alien-contact/coming-of-age yarn from the author of Angelmass (2001), various Star Wars novels, etc. A bunch of tightfisted oligarchs known as the Five Hundred run the Solar System. Colonel Jakob Faraday, aboard a probe deep in Jupiter's atmosphere, discovers the Qanska, large intelligent creatures resembling manta rays. Needing inside information on these intriguing life forms, he challenges self-centered, self-pitying quadriplegic Matt Rainey: Matt can have a new, fully functional body—if <\I>he's reborn as a Qanska. Soon, as a newborn Qanska Baby learning to swim/fly, Matt calls himself Manta. He's been equipped to communicate with Faraday and his team above, but as he feeds, sleeps, battles predators, makes friends, and learns about the structure of Qanska society, Matt begins to lose interest in his former life. The Five Hundred, however, don't believe that the Qanska are native to Jupiter, and therefore must have a star drive—which is why they sponsored Matt to become one. The Qanska don't actually have a star drive—they arrived on Jupiter through a wormhole—but they do have a serious problem: their ecology is faltering and they need help tackling the situation. Matt, however, becoming more and more Qanska, stalls until Faraday's belligerent new boss, Katrina Liadof, threatens to nuke Jupiter unless the Qanska yield the star drive.
Despite the utterly ludicrous explanation for the Qanska's difficulties, Zahn fans and other young impressionables should find this a reasonably entertaining and edifying adventure.