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War between the stars.

It was started by an AI, and few humans even knew there was a war at all. But now people are dying, not just robots and aliens—and the AI wants it to stop. But a war is easier to start than to stop, and the computer can't alter its course without outside help. When the Gnostic Control System searches for conspirators, it chooses its friends carefully...

  • Pali: a public relations director, who broods far too much on her unfulfilled ambitions.
  • Ramo: a flamboyant senso-dancer and sculptor, who prefers a musical jamdam to serious conversation.
  • Sage: an awkward systems designer, for whom the AI rapture-field is realer than life.
  • And three of the alien Ell: Harybdartt, who would rather die with dignity than betray his people; Lingrhetta, who tries to unravel the meaning of human dance and music, pain and love; and Moramaharta, the binder, who must persuade his fellow decision-makers to risk everything for the sake of a fragile bridge of understanding across the stars.

A thought-provoking novel of the not-too-distant future, from the Nebula-nominated author of Eternity’s End and The Chaos Chronicles.


“The story is meaty and satisfying. I enjoyed this one greatly.” —Analog Science Fiction

“An absorbing, suspenseful novel of first contact and interstellar war. It’s a complex book, requiring concentration from the reader, and is well worth the effort.”—Aboriginal SF

“A lively dance of ideas—first contact, interstellar war, artificial intelligence, alien culture—and it moves at a rapid pace, from Earth through cyberspace to the Horsehead Nebula, and various points between. It’s well-worth the trip ticket.” —Roger Zelazny

Originally published by Tor Books

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    A Lesson

    A well taught lesson about the danger of assumptions wrapped in a gripping tale of inter-galatic thought and adventure.


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