Zoey Fisher is a genetically enhanced cloned human who is specially designed to explore the poisonous planet Isis. The are sealed environments on Isis both on land and in the ocean as well as an orbiting station. Constant vigilence is needed to prevent any of the particles from the planet from entering the human habitat. Large, unwieldly armor suits are needed when anyone exits to the planet.
At the time Zoey arrives an engineer was outside the habitat working on a malfunctioning seal. There had been more breakdowns recently and the engineer was trying to discover the cause. Before he can prevent it, his own suit broke a seal. The toxins of the planet attacked. The engineer soon died a gruesome death inside his armor.
In the 22nd century humans have traveled through space and colonized planets, broken down on Earth and built a new civilization with defined, stratified classes. The men from the other planets had also moved into structured societies but are more flexible on their intermingling. Even so, Isis adopts the rigid structures of Earth society.
Zoey ignores them all. Zoey acclimates herself to Isis and Yambuku, the habit to where she is assigned. At the same time, she is noticing her emotions are not under control. The mechanical implant that she and all humans wear to smooth emotions must be malfunctioning but she doesn't want to see the medical staff in case she isn't allowed to foray out onto Isis.
Finally the day comes. When her Isis mentor, Tam, accompanies her to the surface, he feels like a giant in his armor. Zoey's new protective suit is skin tight and light. She has freedom of movement that can never be achived in the old armor. She's excited and happy. Tam tries to tamp down her exuberance as he sees the accelerating breakdowns around the different habitats.
Wilson has created a planet that overtakes any foreign entity that lands on it. The humans need Isis to continue their space exploration. They are still trying to find sentient life in the universe. The secrets Isis holds are more than Zoey, Tam, or any of the explorers can imagine.
This planet and environs are well constructed. Robert Charles Wilson keeps his descriptions consistant and relevant. It is fascinating to see how the planet is revealed to the reader. Yet the tale has stilted sections - the book isn't long enough to fully develop his imagination. By the last quarter of the book I was pulled into the story. It was hard to get to that point, though.
Notice: Suggestive dialogue or situations
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