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Maximum Light
Nancy Kress
Tor Books, 245 pages

Maximum Light
Nancy Kress
Nancy Kress is the author of Beggars in Spain, Beggars and Choosers and Beggars Ride, among others.

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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Lisa DuMond

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"You can't drink it slow if it's Quik®." And you can't read it slow if it's Nancy Kress. Two immutable laws of nature. The rest of your schedule be damned.

With Maximum Light, Kress returns to some of her favourite topics: bioengineering, biotechnology, and the miracles and nightmares they offer. In this short novel, it's the nightmarish aspects which predominate and explode in the face of the main characters almost before the book begins. This is a situation that becomes more horrifying with each new piece of information. Knowledge is not power, but a threat.

But, is it connected to the crisis that threatens to wipe out life on Earth? For, you see, sperm counts have plummeted and taken the birth rate with them; this may be the last generation of the human race. Finding a solution to the sterility is the number one priority and the dilemma on everyone's mind. For those desperate for children, the alternatives are verging on the grotesque. The problem-solvers are losing their last shred of integrity in their eagerness to exploit the suffering. Is it a problem worth solving at any price?

Shana Walders -- nineteen, harder than nails, and smartass deluxe -- wants only to join the military, the only career suitable for an unsuitable person like her. Unfortunately, a chance sighting and her stubborn honesty put her at ground zero for the detonation that threatens to destroy the lives of every person who gets drawn into the intrigue.

Dr. Nick Clementi may be the only person involved who doesn't want to eradicate the annoyance Shana has become. His position on a congressional medical crises team introduces him to the bizarre tale she insists on repeating to everyone who will listen. Despite fighting his own life-and-death battle, Nick is soon working with Shana to learn the truth.

Cameron Atuli wants only to continue to dance with the ballet. Sure, it's a touch strange that he recently underwent an invasive surgery to remove an area of his brain. What memories needed to be deleted? And who decided the deletion was necessary? Those questions form the central enigma of Maximum Light.

Of course, these characters must end up together, hot on the trail of the mystery. It isn't a match-up that promises perfect cooperation, but no one has more at stake and less chance of success.

It's a stampede of a read. You'll find yourself hooked from the first page and Shana's first crass thoughts. The story lines converge seamlessly, pulling readers deep into the heart of the mystery. The premise seems all too possible in a world where fertility seems to become less likely and government conspiracies more likely with every news flash.

If you enjoyed the Beggars trilogy, you'll be enthralled in Kress' latest effort. If you've never indulged before, this is the perfect introduction to a talented and exciting author.

Copyright © 1998 Lisa DuMond

Lisa DuMond writes science fiction and humour. She co-authored the 45th anniversary issue cover of MAD Magazine. Previews of her latest, as yet unpublished, novel are available at Hades Online.


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