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Crossing the Line    by Karen Traviss order for
Crossing the Line
by Karen Traviss
Order:  USA  Can
Eos, 2004 (2004)

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* *   Reviewed by Theresa Ichino

This sequel to City of Pearl continues the adventures of Shan Frankland. Once a police officer for Environmental Enforcement, Shan made a hard decision and stood by her own moral and ethical principles. In so doing, she became a hunted fugitive. In order to save her life, Aras, the alien wess'har warrior, infected her with bacteria-sized symbiotes that not only repaired her injury, but also made her near-immortal. Shan is a biological treasure, hunted by government agents from Earth as well as representatives from bio-corporations. She and Aras are now in hiding on the planet Bezer'ej.

The planet itself is occupied and overseen by the wess'har, who protect the native bezeri, gentle sea-going giants who are helpless against incursions by either the spider-like isenj or the few Earth humans who have settled there. The wess'har are aware of the disastrous effect either species can have (and have had) on the bezeri, and have curtailed human settlement on the planet. The only Earth colony is a small group willing to abide by the strict wess'har ecological restrictions. As for the isenj, the wess'har went to war to evict them from the planet. Aras is the sole surviving, near-immortal soldier remaining from that war, and is centuries old.

Crossing the Line is a study of a fascinating protagonist. Shan must deal with the traumatic effects of her decision. She has lost all that is familiar to her, including her own body, which is undergoing changes as the symbiotes transform her. Although human in appearance, she, like Aras, is nearly immortal, invulnerable to most forms of injury. Additionally, the author presents a complicated political and ethical tangle, represented by well-delineated aliens. None of the species (with the possible exception of Earth humans!) are evil. However, they have differing priorities. The isenj are driven by population pressure, as they multiply with insect-like rapidity, much to the scorn and disgust of the wess'har.

Humans, sadly, are driven by motives that range from greed to revenge. The agents seeking Shan all want to be the first and only possessors of the symbiotes. Once a friend, Commander Lindsay Neville blames Shan for refusing to save the life of her child. Even knowing the future that child would have faced if Shan had infected him with the symbiotes, Lindsay is unable to forgive her. In pursuing Shan, she tries to convince herself that her motive is pure: to destroy a dangerous biological weapon. Traviss writes well, peopling her tale with strong and colourful characters, and I'm eager to read the next installment of Shan's adventures.

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