"Fool's Run" is one of the many good books written by Patricia McKillip prior to her current run of fantasy novels. It's definitely worth reprinting, and hopefully it will be sometime.
Terra Viridian is a young woman on a colony, who sees a vision and destroys fifteen hundred people with a laser rifle. Deemed insane and dangerous, she lapses into a waking coma and is sentenced to live in an orbital prison called the Underworld. There, she spends seven years stuck in her strange, inhuman vision of light.
Seven years later, she is subjected to the experimental dream machine, and for the first time other people see her seemingly insane visions. A man named Aaron Fisher searches for the long-lost sister of Terra Viridian, after his pregnant wife was killed by Terra. Elsewhere, a band of cubers come to the Constellation Club; one of them is the enigmatic Magician, and the other is the Queen of Hearts, a beautiful woman with heart pins in her red hair and a golden mask hiding her face -- and her tragic past. But there is a connection between the Queen of Hearts and Terra Viridian. And when the vision touches the Magician as well, he and his friends set out to find what it is that made Terra kill those people, and what dreams of light.
As with her fantasy books, Patricia McKillip falls into no plot cliches. Though this space opera contains some elements that all SF books have to some degree, there's a fantastical bent to it all, and a lack of the usual parts such as aliens, ultra-powerful ships, and so on. This is a story where you can't predict what is out there, and can't guess what and why.
The characters start out as enigmas and gradually unfold in front of the reader. We have Aaron Fisher, the man tormented by his lost love; the beautiful Queen of Hearts, who is determined to keep her past a secret until it becomes vitally important; Terra Viridian, a hollow-eyed prisoner locked in her dream for years, until she has to wake up; and the Magician, perhaps my favorite character, who is in some ways the most mysterious and entertaining person in the whole book.
The writing is starker than her fantasy books, except in the last fourth of it; there we have the dreamy beauty of language that McKillip is famous for. She balances it nicely, as such language would be totally out of place in a grubby bar than out in the stars over an alien planet. We are also treated to more of McKillip's musings on revenge, loss, and forgiveness. There is some innuendo unsuitable for kids, but this is fine for teens and adults.
One of the most original SF books I've read...