(Tor Books, $6.99, paperback, 352 pages, first published 2001, this edition, 1 July 2002; ISBN: 0765342111.)
Linda Nagata is possessed of a wild speculativeimagination. She sees beyond cutting-edge science to the social and personal implications of its possible applications. Her prose successfully combines understated elegance and neologistic flair. Nevertheless, Limit of Vision, her fifth novel, fails to fulfill the promise of these qualities.
LOVs are artificial life forms that exist at the limit of vision (hence their acronymic name). Illegal on Earth, they are bred in space, where they are studied via remote systems by a trio of young, brilliant scientists working for the high-tech firm Equatorial Systems. The three researchers smuggle LOVs to Earth and implant them in their bodies. This symbiosis subtly enhances the scientists' emotions and thought processes. Shortly after one of them dies mysteriously, the LOVs that remain in space engineer to crash their space station in Vietnam. A renegade video artist, Ela Suvanatat, and a strange cult, the Roi Nuoc, both enter into symbiotic relationships with the escaped LOVs. The International Biotechnology Commission considers this an ecological disaster and wants to exterminate all LOVs. Add to this mix Ky Xuan Nguyen, a wealthy businessman with a secret agenda who negotiates a LOV protectorate, and Mother Tiger, an artificial intelligence worshipped by the Roi Nuoc, and the story gets rolling.
Sadly, this promising tale collapses under the weight of too many unanswered questions. How did Ky Xuan Nguyen succeed in negotiating the LOV protectorate? How did the three scientists smuggle the LOVs to Earth? And what inspired them to do so? What are the details of the event that first caused world authorities to be so strict and paranoid about artificial life? While Limit of Vision is, at first, an exciting read, by the end, the vagueness of such important plot points nags to irritating distraction.
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© Claude Lalumière 2 June 2001, 12 April 2003