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
Cover by Jim Burns
Crossfire is Nancy Kress‘ first book in a duology about the travellers from Earth to Greentrees. They have all pooled their resources so they can get away from an Earth where the people are rapidly self-destructing. All Greentrees needs is a bit of terraforming for humans to be able to enjoy it fully. But the people who have travelled to Greentrees have done so for various reasons and their personalities are more or less suited to this type of adventure.
Jake Holman and Gail Cutler are the group’s leaders. However, there are subgroups. These are the New Quakers, the Environmentalists, the New Cherokees, the Islamists, the modified Soldiers, the scientists and Jake the lawyer. Once they begin to settle on Greentrees, the New Cherokees take off as planned. Their aim is to live as indianlike as possible and to have a little as possible to do with the rest of the humans. The majority of the humans try to keep their differences in check and work together on building a town to live in.
However, any new world is bound to have some trouble for the arrivals and on Greentrees it just happens to be a group of primitive humanoid aliens. In spite of there being more than one group of these aliens, it does not seem as if they are native to Greentrees. The various groups of aliens behave very dissimilar to each other even though they share genetic material.
The humans who had thought themselves alone in this arm of the Galaxy discover that they have now, in fact, become embroiled in an interstellar war. The side chosen by the humans will also decide the fate of humanity.
I quite liked Crossfire. The characters were a bit much at times but I liked the way Kress presented different types of conflict and the resolution to them (where that was possible). There was plenty of action and psychology in this novel. Preaching was present but not to the point where it got annoying.