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    HAMMERFALL by C. J. Cherryh

    EOS, July 2001

    From his childhood, Marak Trin Tain has been cursed with a madness--a constant voice calling his name, telling him to move east. Now Ila, the goddess-ruler of the planet, has commanded that all of the mad be brought to her and Marak is forced into the caravan of the hopelessly mad. For Ila, the madness is a danger and a threat. Shared voices, shared visions, are more than a random insanity. They are a message and possibly an attack. Marak is sent on an exploration of the east, given his freedom in return for his promise to bring news of what he discovers.

    The journey across the planet's huge deserts is deadly for many, both of the mad and the sane. Yet the voice tells Marak that he is doing the right thing, moving in the right direction, but now it adds a compulsion. Time is running out and terrible danger awaits. A danger, Marak learns, not only to himself, but to Ila and the entire planet. Powerful forces, powerful enemies, have massed and are have determined to destroy the nanotechnology-driven basis for life on Marak's world and neither Ila, nor those responsible for his madness can do anything to prevent this destruction.

    Author C. J. Cherryh (click here to read other reviews of novels by this author) writes compellingly and convincingly about the strange madness that affects her characters. Marak, in particular, is a richly drawn character with a history, emotional attachments, and ambitions that conflict with his moral judgments. The science underlying the novel adds to the interest reflecting, as it does, current thought on how terraforming a planet could be accomplished. Her descriptions of desert horrors, the vermin swarms, and the danger from the skys are compelling.

    Like many of Cherryh's novels, HAMMERFALL is occasionally difficult to read, yet worth the effort (see our review of the wonderful, but occasionally incomprehensible CYTEEN).

    Four Stars

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