Humanity has spread to every star within 500 light-years of its half-forgotten origin, coloring the sky with a haze of habitats. Societies rise and fall. Incautious experiments burn fast and fade. On the fringes, less modified humans get on with the job of settling a universe that has, so far, been empty of intelligent life.
The ancient starship But the Sky, My Lady! The Sky! is entering orbit around a promising new system after a four hundred year journey. For its long-lived inhabitants, the centuries have been busy. Now a younger generation is eager to settle the system. The ship is a seed-pod ready to burst.
Then they detect curious electromagnetic emissions from the system's Earth-like world. As the nature of the signals becomes clear, the choices facing the humans become stark.
On Ground, second world from the sun, a young astronomer searches for his system's outermost planet. A moving point of light thrills, then disappoints him. It's only a comet. His physicist colleague Orro takes time off from trying to invent a flying-machine to calculate the comet's trajectory. Something is very odd about that comet's path.
They are not the only ones for whom the world has changed.
"We are not living in the universe we thought we lived in yesterday. We have to start learning the world all over again."
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Ken MacLeod holds a degree in zoology and has worked in the fields of biomechanics and computer programming. His first two novels, The Star Fraction and The Stone Canal, each won the Prometheus Award; The Cassini Division was a finalist for the Nebula Award; and The Sky Road won the British Science Fiction Association Award and was a finalist for the Hugo Award, as were his next two novels, Cosmonaut Keep and Dark Light. His most recent novel is Newton's Wake. Ken MacLeod lives near Edinburgh, Scotland, with his wife and children.
Adult/High School A colony ship full of genetically enhanced posthumans reaches its destination only to discover that the planet is populated by batlike people at a primitive stage of technology just short of an electronic age. After millennia of expansion throughout the galaxy without having encountered another intelligent race, humans had come to think it impossible; for their part, the bat people have always thought that space aliens could exist only in engineering tales. The novel unfolds over several years through the alternating stories of two young people: Alternate Discourse Gale, a feisty posthuman on the ship as she leaves home to join her teen cohort of colonizers (Learning the World is the title of her blog); and Darvin, a graduate bat-student in the Impractical Science of astronomy, who discovers the colony ship while mapping the heavens from a mountaintop on his planet. The story moves rapidly, with many twists and surprises. Through action and character, the author masterfully creates an authentic sense of both alien worlds in all their complexity. Of the far-future humans and the bat people, the latter are closer to humans as we are now, and the interplay of the two worlds, each with its numerous cultural and political rivalries, is engaging, rich in social commentary, and often moving, yet also playful and often humorous. Thought-provoking and entertaining, this highly original first-contact story should please any science fiction reader. Christine C. Menefee, formerly at Fairfax County Public Library, VA
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