Anne Harris returns with an outstanding look at the near future. Never before has her technological insight been so acute, or her portrayal of sex and gender issues more startling or insightful.
A bio-technology corporation has created a new species, intelligent, four-armed, humanoid "tetras" who can live in the vats in which "the company" grows biopolymers. Both the tetras and the human vat-divers they were created to replace are at the mercy of vicious corporate politics. But soon the victims become the aggressors, and something amazing, a transcendent change, occurs not only in their lives, but throughout the world. Anne Harris has created an extraordinary, breathtaking vision of the future.
At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.
Despite a strong beginning and initially sympathetic characters in interesting relationships, Harris's second novel (after The Nature of Smoke, 1996) is derailed by undigested psychological material, and winds up as an uncomfortable adhesion of fantasy and hard SF with elements of disaster movie and a barely coherent metaphysics. Harris convincingly creates a future Detroit in which car manufacturing has been supplanted by a biotextile industry. Now people drive maglevs, sit in living, self-cleaning chairs and watch interactive soap operas. Vat divers brave deadly sickness to harvest materials for manipulative employer GeneSys. After Ada organizes a successful strike against the company, she dies under mysterious circumstances. Her sister Chango wants nothing to do with vat diving, but she falls in love with a four-armed woman named Helix with a strange affinity for the vats. Halfway through the book, Harris switches genres and reveals in a few summary pages that Helix has been spawned by Lilith, a creature biologically engineered for vat diving who has taken on the qualities of a primeval goddess and rebelled against GeneSys, now understood to be a sort of rival god. Thereafter, it's one extravagantly ad hoc turn after another as the plot rushes in a direction quite at odds with the biotechnological buildup and the social realism of the opening. There may be a couple of good novels--one fantasy, one SF--embedded within, but shoehorning them together has diminished both.