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Horizons    by Mary Rosenblum order for
by Mary Rosenblum
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2006 (2006)

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

It's always exciting to find a new SF author to add to my must read list, so I was thrilled by Mary Rosenblum's Horizons. It's another yarn about rebels in space fighting an unjust Earth government, but Rosenblum has injected quite a few twists into the familiar theme. Most of the action takes place on orbital platforms circling above the planet, with self-contained societies dependent on Earth resources and tourism but also resentful of the World Council's control over their lives.

The tale's heroine is Class 9 empath Ahni Huang, who journeys anonymously to orbital platform New York Up, sent by her father (head of the Taiwan family conglomerate) to avenge the killing of her half-twin Xai (who's also her father's clone). But it seems that someone is expecting Ahni, who dodges a series of assassination attempts, fleeing to 'the end of the line', the top level of the platform, green hydroponics gardens in microG. There, a seeming alien, Koi, saves her from another attempt on her life - 'Narrow face, like a hairless skull drawn into caricature by some art program. Weird milky eyes with no pupil, limbs too long for their thin boniness and they ... bent. Like green bamboo.'

Soon Ahni meets platform native Dane Nilsson. On the surface, he's the Hydroponics Plant Administrator and 'low-level gene splicer', but he's much more, running NY Up behind the scenes and organizing its bid for independence. He's also the self-appointed guardian of Koi and his people. Ahni learns who's after her, but also brings trouble to Dane. She feels she owes him, and there's a mutual attraction. They begin to work together. It's soon clear that someone is manipulating the Con (the perpetual online chatter) on NY Up, in an attempt to foment violence, which would in turn cause a strong reaction from the World Council. People close to Ahni are involved as is Li Zhen, ruler of the Dragon Home platform. Li Zhen has a secret he will do anything to protect.

The action accelerates as the World Council sends military to take over NY Up, while Ahni, Dane and others race against time to save Koi's folk from genocide and avoid a blow to Earth that would in turn cause a terrible backlash against the platforms and put an end to their dreams of autonomy. Ahni is ultimately faced with heartbreaking choices. Horizons, which has some resonances with Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, is the best SF story I've read in a long time, not to be missed by fans of the genre.

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