Cover by Jim Burns
Crucible continues where Crossfire left off. Nancy Kress was married to the author Charles Sheffield. In Crucible the characters Lucy and Karim talk a bit about the effects of the McAndrew drive. Charles Sheffield invented the term in his books and Nancy has borrowed the term as an explanation for the way the space vessels behave while travelling at their various speeds. If you are a nerd/semi-nerd like myself, you will probably check the information out.
One of the effects of travelling at near-light-speed is the problem of your ageing compared with the people you have left behind. They will be older (or even dead) when you return to them. I imagine that could be quite traumatic. Crucible deals with that question.
Crucible can mean “test by fire”. We see Karim and Lucy go through their test of fire when they are stuck on the Vine world trying to survive and hopefully get back to other humans. The Vines are strange plantlike creatures whose existence seems very harmonious. For humans that can be difficult to deal with. We probably get off on a bit of conflict in our lives, predator/prey that we are. That and the fact that Vines don’t communicate the way we do makes life extremely difficult for Lucy and Karim.
Crucible is also the name of the vessel travelling from Earth to Greentrees. The passengers onboard are modified humans. What they bring to Greentrees is an arrogant attitude toward the people living there. Being modified makes the people on Greentrees listen to their beautiful voices and beautiful looks. Even Jake Holman (at age ancient) is fooled by them. But the people from Crucible come with an agenda of their own.
A lot of conflict is in the cards and Kress manages to convey the various personalities quite well. She is an interesting writer.
2005: Nominated – Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel