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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
In Violent Stars, the sequel to her highly praised first novel Flesh and Gold, Phyllis Gotlieb offers us an ambitious fusion of intensely detailed characterization, vibrant action, and a highly lyrical narrative style. Known for her poetic skills, the author manages to shrewdly draw readers into a complex but gripping story of alien intention and the pursuit of freedom. Gotlieb keenly toys with the foundation of several societies with such a discretely trained sense of authenticity that her novel is at once a sensual and evocative morality play merged to a highly emotional core.
Seven years have passed since the Zamos Corporation's slave market was disrupted, and the genetically engineered amphibious prostitutes were set free to mine the bottom of the ocean. Readers are once again introduced to the dinosaur-like Khagodi and their vast telepathic powers, as well as to their enemies, the Ix — a race of spider-like beings who exude pheromones in order to gain control of others. Verona Bullivant, whose father is an Earth (Solthree) ambassador seeking to bring Zamos and the Ix to justice, has been kidnapped and is being threatened with the same tortures that her own mother was subjected to before being driven to suicide. Unless the Zamos trial, which involves hundreds of witnesses on several worlds, is brought to a halt, Bullivant fears that his daughter will suffer the same fate as her mother.
Now Galactic Federation agent Ned Gattes is sent on a rescue mission with several strange allies: a group of highly intelligent, talking mutant monkeys, and thebizarrerace known as the Lyhhrt, who are powerfully telepathic, amoeba-like beings living inside human-sized robots.
With his skills and new partners, Gattes has no real trouble rescuing Verona from her captors. The Khagodi guardian, Skerow, takes Verona, and together they go into hiding, even while other manipulations of the Zamos crime organization begin to surface. Gattes is asked by the Lyhhrt to find a shape-shifting robot entity called Spartakos who would be a mighty ally in the coming battles. Spartakos has disappeared under mysterious circumstances, which may be tied to secrets the Lyhhrt wish to remain unrevealed, namely that while they were captives of Zamos, they fashioned cloned human bodies that are in need of great aid. Skerow manages to defend Verona from an Ix attack with her psychic abilities, while they continue to figure out just why Zamos and the Ix want Verona so badly in the first place.
Gotlieb makes ideal use of her various alien life forms and their deep-seated beliefs and motives. Each race is fully developed and intriguing, helping to form a vast alien tableau that is superbly imaginative, compelling, and affecting. The characterizations are rich and intricate, and much more than mere window-dressing in a novel that soars in its imagery and allusions. Even in the most alien landscapes, Gotlieb's emphasis remains on the human condition. Her sensitive attention to dialogue, attitude, and poignant realizations is always exhilarating and emotionally stimulating. Violent Stars is a fascinating blend of philosophical majesty and beautiful writing that leaves its stamp upon the reader.