Horizons by Mary Rosenblum

Tor, 2006, $24.95
reviewed in Interzone 206, October 2006

In the early 1990s, Mary Rosenblum established herself as one of the exciting new young American writers then emerging in science fiction. She wrote a number of highly regarded short stories, and a couple of slightly less well received novels, then disappeared from the genre for a while to write a series of mysteries under the name Mary Freeman. Now, after a decade in which she has made hardly any impact on the field, she re-emerges with this new novel.

At first this hardly looks like the vehicle to catapult her back to the levels of regard she once enjoyed. It starts out as a very routine hard-sf thriller. Ahni Huang, daughter of one of the all-powerful families that now rules Earth, travels to the platform New York Up to find the killer of her brother. Assassins are waiting for her, but she is a high-level empath and has a number of augmentations that allow her to stay just one step ahead of the bad guys, and after a number of hairís-breadth escapes she works out that her brother isnít really dead but is really the villain plotting something much nastier.

Meanwhile, Ahniís escapades on NYUp bring her into contact with the enigmatic Dane Nilson who appears to be in charge of the zero-gravity garden at the hub of the platform, but is really one of the leaders of the independence movement.

So far, so predictable. Ever since the days of Heinlein at least, every time we encounter a space station or near-Earth colony it has to be plotting independence from the big old imperialist in the sky. And the innocent with amazing abilities dodging death while uncovering a terrible secret is hardly the most original plot device. Rosenblum then adds in, with an insouciance that will throw any geneticist into a tizzy, a bunch of strange beings who turn out to be humans who have adapted to life in zero gee within the space of no more than two generations.

Fortunately, she then proves rather more adept at transforming this unpromising beginning into a complex plot of political double-dealing, blackmail, dyed-in-the-wool villainy and straightforward heroism. The result is a novel that gets richer the more it goes on. Hardly the most earth-shattering of returns, but a competent and in the end satisfying novel that should cement her reputation as an author to watch.