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In his latest SF novel, Reynolds (Absolution Gap) creates yet another quirky, noirish vision of humanity's future. Three centuries from now, a technologically induced catastrophe, the Nanocaust, makes Earth uninhabitable. Two versions of humanity—the Threshers, who live in a ring of habitats encircling Earth, and the Slashers, who inhabit the outer planets—each blame the other for the disaster. Both groups share access to a system of artificial wormholes, one of which turns out to contain a perfect copy of Earth, sealed off from the rest of the galaxy, at its far end. The Threshers send archeologist Verity Auger to investigate. On this subtly different version of Earth, Wendell Floyd, a second-rate detective and jazz musician living in Paris in the year 1959, is looking into a very odd murder. Then Auger shows up claiming to be the victim's sister and pursued by lethal creatures who look like decaying children. While Reynolds beautifully details this alternate-universe Paris and handles the developing mystery with aplomb, his Thresher and Slasher cultures lack depth and his climax feels a bit jury-rigged. Still, fans of sophisticated hard SF should be pleased.
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Twenty-third-century Earth is an uninhabitable wasteland overrun by rogue nanotechnology. When archaeologist Verity Auger, studying the relics of twentieth- and twenty-first-century Earth, is accused of reckless endangerment after a child in her care nearly dies, shadowy government forces within her department offer her an out in the form of a mission to retrieve information from somewhere where her knowledge of the mid-twentieth century will be useful. Not until she is well underway do they inpart that her destination is an ALS (anomalous large structure) at the end of a wormhole in which 1950s Earth, slightly changed, is preserved. At that other end of the wormhole, Wendell Floyd is a Parisian PI working a case that gets stranger and more dangerous as he and partner Custine uncover the evidence, which is precisely the information Verity must fetch. The threads come together in a race to save both Earths from extremists, in which Verity and Floyd frantically search for the significance and location of three metal spheres. Reynolds blends noirish sleuthing and hard sf remarkably well. Regina Schroeder
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.