That said, I'm not sure that this is hard SF, though I'm a bit fuzzy at what qualifies a book for that subgenre, not having read as much Analog as I might have. Most of the main characters in the book are scientists and engineers, trying to crack the secret of the FTL drive, and I often found myself bewildered by the technical jargon flying around--mainly because the author made it up herself, ESP and FTL not being fields I'm up on. In the latter, particularly, despite my passing familiarity with relativity physics, I often had little clue what she was referring to. But this is future tech, right?
Oh, yes, the ESP bit. Well, there's more than one alien race floating around, and a fair number of strains of mutated human stock(usually called H'Mus), including the protagonist, Kiondili Wae. Several of the aliens and many of the H'Mus have ESP abilities to a greater or lesser degree; these abilities also have their technical uses, being somehow able to interact with and control "fields".
Kiondili Wae, a H'Mu ESPer with a bit of a chip on her shoulder and tragedy in her past, gets transferred to Corson Station, where she immediately gets into trouble and makes enemies. There's more than a bit of professional rivalry, lots of technical problems, and Wae's emotional problems cause their fair share of trouble too.
The aliens are well-drawn. We really only get one sample of each type, except for the H'Mus, but they're all interesting--the Ixia, a carnivorous race who instinctively pounce on weakness(sometimes literally); the Moal, whose musical communications remind me somewhat of Cherryh's tc'a(who spoke in matrices); the Ruvians, who are H'Mus so far removed as to no longer have a constant physical form, or sexuality; the Dhirrnu, practical jokers with racial memory; and others only sketched out. I can't help wondering if Harper has written/ will write more books in this universe...
For those who like to quantify these things, I'll give it a 7/10. The last half of the book really pulled me along, and the characterization is good.
%A Harper, Tara K.
%I Ballantine del Rey
%C New York
%D July 1992
%P 261 pp.
%O Paperback, US $4.99, Can $5.99
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