I wanted to like this book. It quotes Larry Niven on the cover, “I’m hooked”. I’m not as big a Niven fan as I once was but still, I felt ready for some good hard science fiction.
It’s hard SF, all right, but good? Actually I guess it mostly is. A tale of first contact on Europa, initial contact that goes very wrong and subsequent events where our protagonist wants to make things right. But then you run up against passages like this:
“Looking at her three friends, Vonnie saw the same spark in Ash’s face. They were young, in close quarters, and subjected to unending stress and excitement. Pheromones were merely part of the spell. The ape in them yearned for physical contact, grooming, and reassurance.
“Gene smithing also made their society more free in its sexual norms. Western Europe had already been more sophisticated than most of Earth’s cultures, placing few taboos on nudity or female equality. By the twenty-second century, the defeat of venereal diseases and infallible birth control had led to an era called the Age of Love. Sharing partners, threesomes, and group sex were common experiences for young men and women in the European Union.”
I quoted that in full because otherwise I don’t think you’d believe me when I said: Two entire paragraphs of expository narration to convey the idea that these young people are horny.
This may be the most egregious example of Carlson’s narrative clunkers in the first half of the book, but it’s by no means a unique lapse. As for the second half of the book… well, you’ll have to ask someone else, sorry.