The Shadow Eater (Dominions of Irth) by A. A. Attanasio

The Sardonyx Net by Elizabeth A. Lynn

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Lynn is known mostly for her high-concept fantasy, but this one is 'what if' science fiction of the best sort. It's sometime in the unknown future and humans have colonized dozens of worlds, aided by the discovery of the 'Hype' -- a parallel hyperspace route between stars, navigated by starcaptains, latter-day bravos with their own traditions and culture. The four worlds of the Sardonyx Sector got together a few generations ago to set up a prison world called Chabad, not unlike Britain shipping off its felons to Australia. But now Chabad is a colony world, too, with its own exports, and nearly everything is powered by the slave labor of the convicts. Lynn is careful to make her version of slavery as humane as possible: After their sentence is up, slaves are freed, their property is returned to them, and they can either leave Chabad or become free citizens. They're depersonalized, but not tortured. If they have useful skills, and if their owners are sensitive people, they may experience something like contentment. But they aren't free. And many, perhaps most, slaves are kept dosed on a tranquilizing euphoric drug called dorazine to keep them controllable. Of the Four Families that run Chabad, the slave system is in the care of Family Yago, and especially of Domna Rhani Yago, head of the family, and her brother, Zed, who is both a Senior Medic and Commander of the 'Net,' the toroidal starship that collects the prisoners from the other worlds of the sector and brings them to the slave auction on Chabad. Add an interplanetary antidrug police force trying to keep dorazine from being brought to Chabad, and all the elements are present for a complex, involving plot. But the real focus is on the personalities of Rhani, a reasonable, fair-minded woman who has been blinded by her upbringing and position, and of Zed, a sexual psychopath and thoroughgoing, self-aware sadist. And, finally, of Dana Ikoro, young starcaptain trying to bring off his first successful dorazine smuggling run, who gets caught and falls afoul of Zed before becoming Rhani Yago's slave-pilot -- and confidant, and lover. And there are more than a dozen other carefully-drawn characters in the supporting cast, all of which makes this a thoroughly fascinating book. I've read other reviews by readers -- probably much younger ones -- that have been knee-jerk dismissive of this novel because it seems to approve of slavery, . . . which it doesn't. Lynn seeks only to examine the possible effects of its use, which she does very effectively. Those other reviewers seem to adhere to absolutist standards of ethics and morality and seem not to understand that history (even when it's future history) is what happens, not what *should* happen. Both attitudes are foolish. But then, most long-time science fiction readers learn early to become tolerant ethical relativists. This 1982 Berkley Books Paperback is in Good condition.

ISBN: 9780425053263 SKU: 1075318 Note: Any image shown is from a stock photo and is not the actual book.