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by James Gunn
Tor, $27 Hardback, $13 e-book, 208pp
Published: June 2017

The machine that can make people over into super beings was found at the end of the novel Transcendental. (click here for review) It delivered less than myth and legend promised and merely made healthier, slightly psi-powered, more efficient bodies as shown in the novel Transgalactic. (click here for review) Now these few improved people must solve the mystery of plague or secret invasion that is silencing various alien worlds on the borders of the Galactic Federation. That requires going to visit a lot of worlds.

This is the third in the series called Asha and Riley by the ISFDB. Besides the trilogy, fill-in backstories are appearing in current issues of Asimov's magazine. Now the author is 94 years old and he's not wasting words in getting to the point in the stories. Such a relief after the modern trend – are they paid by the word? See the efficient skill of a Grand Master writer here. If you want the state-of-the-art for human knowledge about the origin, meaning and purpose of life, then you could read these first before spending more time on obsolete classics of philosophy, literature and religion. Or overlong modern sf novels by everyone else.

In an interview for Clarkesworld magazine, James Gunn notes that the theme is evolution and the plot structure of the trilogy is the literary classics The Canterbury Tales, The Odyssey and the Argonauts. He said he is addressing Isaac Asimov's question of "what if" people pursued reason and intelligence more to solve their problems? The ending of this book will surprise you, but it makes sense given the wondrous adventures that set it up. Read, enjoy, and think. ~~ ML Fringe

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