Probability Moon by Nancy Kress
Probability MoonHumans had expanded out to colonies on planets in our Solar System when someone discovered the space tunnels. The tunnels make faster than light travel possible although no one knows how they work. They were left by another space faring race eons ago. A space tunnel just past Neptune allows people to travel all over the galaxy. In the travels, many different alien beings were found. Most of them have humanoid basics like us. One of them is completely different and has now declared war on humans. A space war with the Fallers is now ongoing.
One tunnel trip takes Terrans to a planet that is called the World. There, every being shares a consciousness, what Worlders term as “real”. The World is basically an agricultural planet with some industry. They follow a belief that uses flowers for all rituals. A special team of scientists is sent to World to learn more about them and for them to learn about the Terrans. All studies show the Worlders to be of the same basic species with some unknown quality in their brain that links them together. For punishment of a crime, Worlders are either killed or made “unreal”. An “unreal” person is rejected by all the other Worlders until the punishment term is up. The occasional criminal is disconnected from the shared “realness”. The Terrans visiting World have to prove they are “real” or they could be killed instead.
Although the anthropologists and scientists on the planet are not aware of it, the mission has a secret, military component as well. One of World’s moons isn’t a real moon. It’s a manufactured hollow sphere. The markings on it match the few that have been found in the space tunnels. Perhaps this machine can be used in the war against the Fallers. Humankind decide to examine it more closely, and perhaps take it back to their own space. It certainly can’t be allowed to go to the Fallers.
Probability Moon is a complex, multi-layered novel using known neurological and spatial science as well as adding a bit to give it the fiction portion. Nancy Kress examines numerous themes, including human and alien connections, war, neuroscience, controlling drugs, an unknown enemy, probability science, botany, and military science as well. She has wound the different themes into a complex novel is intriguing. The reader stays pulled in even when it gets dense (I tend to lose interest when the scientific explanations go on too long).
Enli is an “unreal” Worlder that is followed throughout the book. It is fascinating trying to figure out exactly what is happening, determining what it means to be “real” or “unreal”, how a person can sin against the collection, and how her own story winds around from the past to the future. She becomes a servant to spy on the Terrans while they are on World making their stories. Ahmed Bazargan is the older anthropologist in charge of the landing party. He oversees the other three scientists during their time on World. David Allen is an idealistic young man who believes the Worlders’ neural connections can be used in humans to bring peace to all. He is positioned in a crib area with World and human babies. Syree Johnson is the scientist on the ship studying the manufactured moon and trying to capture it. She is ex-military which is why she was chosen for this trip.
As you can see, the personalities are varied. The situation becomes volatile and dangerous for the Terrans and the Worlders. The Fallers discover the system before the humans can secure the “moon” for themselves, which leads to another shooting battle.
Probability Moon is a good example of Kress’ powerful work.