Copyright 1994 by
I first read this on the 19th July 2002.
We find J. D. Sauvage and her motley crew in the Star system of The Four Worlds, meeting
the assorted aliens of these planets. The solar sailing craft Starfarer orbits around
J. D. Sauvage's personal FTL spacecraft, the Nautilus, as these representatives of humanity
attempt to gain access to the interstellar community known as Civilisation.
J.D., as an alien contact specialist successfully handles the introductions with
Quickercatcher, Longestlooker, Fasterdigger and Sharphearer, Late and Orchestra.
Europa and Andro, near-immortal survivors of the Minoan civilisation provide a more
unqualified support to the humans than perhaps they did previously.
Crimson Ng continues her excavation of the faked alien archeological remains, to the
excitement of these sophisticated but perhaps naive aliens who refuse to believe that
these relics are less than genuine.
The "cosmic string" - the means for transitioning into FTL travel - has left the solar
system. Flights back to Sol are possible, but it is no longer possible to leave
the solar system at FTL speeds. Any craft traveling there will simply be stranded on
arrival. Thus J. D. struggles over whether or not to return herself and her crew to
Earth to tell humanity that aliens exist and had been contacted. It's her duty to
return, but any return to Earth will result in loss of contact with Civilisation for
the foreseeable future.
Well, all in all, a bit of a disappointment from the woman that wrote the magnificent
"The Exile Waiting" and "Dreamsnake". For the first hundred and fifty or so
pages I had pretty much given up on trying to work out who the characters were, and
completely given up on the pennyfarthing aliens et al. Eventually I began to get a
clearer picture of the human protagonists. Never got the hang of the aliens though,
except for the appealing Late, the Representative's Representative.
On the other hand, of course, this is the concluding book in the four volume set
that began with "Starfarers", and I'm sure that having read even one of these books
first would made this final volume far more satisfying. Certainly there were some
pretty cool ideas plus some interesting relationships that must have been introduced
in the earlier volumes, but overall, it was lightweight and all too safe.
It's got a big, good, satisfying ending that makes up for all the unhealthy hugging that
goes on with between the humans and aliens, and also (I'm shocked to say) even among
Loaded on the 19th August 2002.