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The Shapes Of Their Hearts
Melissa Scott
Tor Books, 304 pages

The Shapes Of Their Hearts
Melissa Scott
Born in Little Rock, Arkansas, Melissa Scott studied history at Harvard College and Brandeis University, where she earned her Ph.D. in the comparative history program. In 1986, she won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, the 1996 Lambda Literary Award for Gay/Lesbian Science Fiction for Shadow Man and the same award in 1995 for Trouble And Her Friends. She is one of the founders of WaveLengths, a review journal of gay/lesbian/bisexual/of interest science fiction and fantasy.

Melissa Scott Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Point of Dreams
SF Site Review: The Shape Of Their Hearts
SF Site Review: Conceiving the Heavens
SF Site Review: Dreaming Metal

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Donna McMahon

The Shapes of Their Hearts is a book that was a pleasure to review. Aside from the solid plot and characters, I haven't seen any writer handle technology better than Melissa Scott. There is lots of gee-whiz high tech in her future galactic society, but characters don't stop to discuss it -- they USE it while they're getting on with their lives. The applications are very convincing, too. More than once I found myself thinking "Gee, I could really use one of those."

Anton Tso, businessman and medical designer, is reluctantly pressed into a mission to "Eden," a backward world settled by a religious cult. Eden is under galactic data embargo for releasing a sophisticated rogue AI ("memoriant") on galactic computer systems. The memoriant, created from the memories of the cult's founder, is believed by Edenites to speak God's words, and it is on a mission to convert the rest of humanity, or destroy them.

Tso has a buyer who wants a copy of the memoriant for his own uses and is powerful enough to blackmail Tso's family. Tso must cooperate, but as a clone and an FTL traveller -- twice damned in the eyes of the cultists -- he's scared. Rightly so. Things go wrong almost immediately.

This sketchy intro does not begin to do justice to a complex plot which also follows a group of apostate Edenites in Freeport, a seaport/spaceport city built on an ocean platform (like a giant oil rig). It took me a while to get into this book because none of Scott's characters are immediately endearing, but the novel grew on me until I was quite enthralled. I particularly enjoyed the vivid coastal setting and was not surprised to see from the book jacket that Scott lives in a seaport town.

Quibbles? Well, Scott could have done more wrap-up. The book ends abruptly and we don't get much emotional resolution about characters we've come to care for. But overall, this is a sophisticated, adult book, well worth reading.

Copyright © 2002 Donna McMahon

Donna McMahon discovered science fiction in high school and fandom in 1977, and never recovered. Dance of Knives, her first novel, was published by Tor in May, 2001, and her book reviews won an Aurora Award the same month. She likes to review books first as a reader (Was this a Good Read? Did I get my money's worth?) and second as a writer (What makes this book succeed/fail as a genre novel?). You can visit her website at

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