Helen Failia has almost singlehandedly created Venera, a scientific research base in the atmosphere of Venus, but as with so many research facilities, its survival hinges on precarious funding. Meanwhile, aliens who call themselves "The People" are looking into colonizing the planet-to them, its hot, high-pressure atmosphere provides a haven from their dying planet. But The People have environmentalism almost instinctively drilled into them, and the presence of humans gives them cause to stay away.
After a dramatic first encounter, conflicts rage on both sides: the pragmatic representatives of The People want to take what is theirs and to hell with the humans, who (without the ecological sensitivities of their race) are morally suspect already, while the more idealistic members try to do what is right while terrified that they me damning their race to extinction. Meanwhile, some humans embrace the arrival of the aliens, particularly those on Venera, for whom the arrival of the aliens has been a godsend in terms of ensuring the base's survival. Others see contact with the aliens as something to fight for, while yet others are fearful.
Decisions need to be made and they need to be the right ones, else one or both races might perish or go to war with one another. But the situation is complex and both sides persist in misunderstanding one another, often wrongly assuming a monolithic unanimity from the alien parties that simply doesn't exist, risking catastrophic consequences.
This may be Sarah Z.'s best novel yet. She has once again created an alien species that is almost more believable than her humans, and she has set up a gripping, page-turning conflict that I can't talk too much about for fear of giving things away. An excellent book.