Tor, Nov 2001, 25.95, 398 pp.
Among the Thousand Cultures that make up the galaxy, earth already has a decadent reputation for misusing things. The latest movement on earth involves what most other worlds would say are the misuse of the recordings of the psypyx. Most of the worlds relish sharing their minds with the recordings of the deceased, but on earth the push is to place the recordings into games as virtual toys. The outrage among the Thousand Cultures and the earthlings' ignorance of this reaction could lead to war.
Girault Leones vowed never to work for the Office of Special Projects, especially with Shan, because their last disastrous collaboration led to the destruction of the planet Briand and his own divorce from Margaret. However, circumstances makes Girault realize never say never because he knows the galaxy needs him to influence the decisions on earth. He volunteers to try to keep the planet from taking actions that could lead to war.
The third Thousand Cultures tale, THE MERCHANTS OF SOULS, is an exciting science fiction tale that contains several intriguing premises especially the concept of sharing brain cells. The story line is overloaded so pivotal events are passively discussed between characters as having happened rather than actively described. Still, John Barnes shows why he is an award-winning author by making his futuristic realms seem authentic while fostering some novel ideas.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner