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"Filled with intellectual and emotional fireworks."
—The New York Times on The Children Star
"A story that is not only exciting but also filled with memorable characters: human, alien and sentient machine."
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Thoughtful and thought provoking science fiction novels that mix cutting-edge biological issues with attempts at nonviolent conflict resolution."
—Minneapolis Star Tribune
An accomplishedscience-fiction writer and biology professor at a small liberal arts college draws on all her professional experience to portray a young woman's freshman year in space.
Some years into the future, global warming and a cyanide-emitting, apparently mindless alien creature called an Ultraphyte have made the Earth nearly uninhabitable. Jennifer Ramos Kennedy, descendant of three presidents (in fact, a clone of one of them) has been groomed to lead the fight to conserve the planet's remaining resources.Unfortunately, a genetic flaw makes public speaking incredibly difficult, and she's devastated by the recent death of her more charismatic twin brother, Jordi. She literally distances herself from her problems by matriculating at Frontera College, located in a lushly terraformed space habitat. However, Earth politics still demand her attention, as she's linked to several key figures in the upcoming U.S. presidential election, a hotly contested race between the liberal, science-embracing Unity party (read: Democrats) and the Centrists (a conservative, Tea Party–like faction which insists that outer space ends at the moon's orbit). Meanwhile, the Ultraphyte problem also follows Jennifer to Frontera, forcing her from the quiet life she desires to take a public stand. Slonczewski's worldbuilding has always gone deep; she gives the profoundest thought to how biology, culture, social structure, language, politics and economics combine to shape the future. Although the author is solidly on the side of science, she's not blindly so: although the elite genetically engineer their children to be disease-free and brilliant, there's a high incidence of psychological and social disorders amongst them.She's also clear-eyed about the type of personal compromises politicians (including academic politicians) must make in order to win votes and money.
Jennifer's story feels unfinished; readers will certainly hope to follow her through to graduation.
Posted August 6, 2011
Global warming continues terraforming the earth. Botanist student Jennifer Ramos Kennedy knows first hand the impact when the rising sea broke through the New York City wall leaving her twin bother Jordi and others dead. Still grieving and with a heavy heart Jennifer applies and is admitted to Frontera College whose campus is a spacehab tied to the Earth.
The freshman struggles at first to adapt school. However as she becomes acclimated to attending college, she makes friends with her autistic roommate and falls in love. On the other hand, Jennifer finds the downside of being part of an influential political family as some people scorn her and others want to use her. Then there is the terraforming cyanide producing ultraphyte aliens.
Using extrapolations of present trends in science, politics, and society Joan Slonczewski provides an entertaining science fiction satire. Humor is used to mock those in power who prefer bumper sticker pseudoscience over scientific data. The locales are top rate while the cast especially the key students are fully developed in support of the botany student. Readers will enjoy Jennifer's freshman year at school.
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Posted October 27, 2012
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