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3.3 out of 5 stars
Crossfire
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 1 March 2003
Nancy Kress' style captivates me to the point that I am quite willing to overlook her shortcomings. I'll mention them though, just to get them out of the way: I found the beginning a bit rough, keeping track of a lot of characters all introduced at the same time. And there were occasional repetitions noticeable, and rather awkward foreshadowing.
These are each very minor flaws though, and don't interfere with a thoroughly enjoyable read.
Plotwise, we have a private company in the 23rd century building a spaceshp and ferrying 6,000 very rich people from a dying Earth to their new planet, Greentrees. These 6000 represent quite diverse groups and ideologies. There's a tribe of Cheyennes wanting to take up a traditional mode of life; 1000 Chinese and 1000 New Quakers each seeking separate ways of leading simpler and quieter lifestyles; a major charcter's extended family of ecologically obsessed scientists; a deposed Arabic royal family, along with a few other various assorted rich & eccentric individuals.
The challenges and difficulties of setting up a world with such large and diversified groups is well handled by the author. Further complication ensue with the discovery of aliens already living in villages and with the approach of a spaceship bearing a very different species approaching.
The core of the novel and its primary fascination come from the parts where humans and aliens work to avoid mistakes like those made on first contact. However, the stories & agendas of the various characters are also fascinating. At times, one might fear trite & ho-hum subplots such as the friction between the New Quaker doctor and his rebellious daughter, or the Corporation leader with a deep dark secret in his past, and yet we feel deeply enough for those involved that we are concerned with how each works out his and her challenges.
Having been away from science- reading for a long while, disenchanted with the depressing view of the future and the emphasis on hard science prevalent in the genre, I found this to be a refreshing, enjoyable return.
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"Crossfire" is sci-fi novel about colonisation and first contact. Kress has a runaway imagination and really intriguing narrative ideas, but reading this book at several points I had the feeling of being in front of a draft of a novel rather than a real one.
In some passages, the author chooses to summarise without letting us see what happens, or to reduce complicated events to a sentence without explaining how the characters could do that way. In other cases she anticipates what will happen, thus eliminating suspense.
On the other hand, instead, she inserts here and there meditations of the characters that should characterize them better - but in my opinion that turns them into stereotypes - and that should explain the reason for some of their actions, but she does not succeed.
Considering their inconsistent behaviour you have the impression of being in front of a bunch of madmen, who follow threads of logic that completely escape the reader.
Perhaps the author wanted to put too many ingredients in the cauldron, which should be distributed at least in a trilogy to be well exploited.
In any case, the story is pretty entertaining, but the escalation of non-sense, which begins in the middle of the novel and culminates in an improbable ending, prevents me from exceeding the third star.

Rita Carla Francesca Monticelli, author of Red Desert - Point of No Return
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This is my first Nancy Kress book. It will not be my last.
Humans settling space and humans encountering aliens is a common theme in science fiction litterature. In this book humans do both.
As the Mira Corp group settles down on Greentree, they discover that they are not all alone. On a planet they had thought was devoid of sentient life, they encouter another race. But this race is extremely divergent and seems to differ from group to group more than evolution can account for. In fact evolutionary studies of the planet show that it is highly unlikely that these aliens (now called Furs) are in fact originally from the planet.
They are not. It turns out that they have been imported by another group of aliens (part plant, part animal) who are experimenting on a way to change the genetic makeup of the Furs in order to make them more docile.
Now the humans need to choose sides, and their struggle in making a choice is what most of this book is about. It is also about the conflicts within the Mira Corp group, both among individuals and among the different groups who have emigrated from Earth.
All in all it was an enjoyable book. It caught my attention and managed to hold it most of the way through. While not a book I could not put down, it was certainly above average. Enjoy.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 2 January 2009
It says something about the low standards present in the genre thesedays that work as unsophisticated as this can still win the odd plaudit.

Fails miserably in its attempt to come up with a remotely plausible reason for interstellar warfare, and drags in the oldest cliche of the lot, an earth that goes offline because of a breakdown of order at the critical moment I could go one, but there isn't a lot of point.
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