EW looks at the latest in science fiction books -- We give grades to ''Coyote Frontier,'' ''Learning the World,'' and two others

Counting Heads

EW looks at the latest in science fiction books

COYOTE FRONTIER Allen Steele (Ace, $24.95)
Colonists on planet Coyote repelled attackers from Earth decades ago, but now Earth’s overpopulation has made settlement of distant Coyote a priority. The Fate of the World Rests On… the activation of stargates that put Coyote just seconds away from Earth. Political Scorecard Coyote’s leader visits the United Nations (relocated to London) to sue for recognition of his nation. Lowdown The smart finale to Steele’s Coyote trilogy delivers a rich blend of personal and political storytelling. A-

THE ROSETTA CODEX Richard Paul Russo (Ace, $14.95)
Journeying to the lone city on Conrad’s World, orphaned slave Cale Alexandros discovers a way to help revive an extinct alien race. The Fate of the World Rests On… control of a metallic-paged book with the recipe to resurrect the species. Political Scorecard Human First conservatives want to let the sleeping species lie, while neo-liberals support interstellar diversity. Lowdown This engaging Joseph Campbell-esque hero’s quest overlooks the most crucial ingredient: a compelling hero. B-

LEARNING THE WORLD Ken MacLeod (Tor, $24.95)
In orbit above the Earth — like planet Destiny II, the human inhabitants of the starship But the Sky, My Lady! The Sky! argue about a novel obstacle to their colonial ambitions: intelligent life. The Fate of the World Rests On… the aliens’ treatment of their slave-like subordinates, the trudges. Political Scorecard Inter-ship fractionalization threatens to thwart their shared mission. Lowdown A compelling first-contact scenario, but MacLeod’s confusing characters lead to a lackluster close encounter. B

COUNTING HEADS David Marusek (Tor, $24.95)
It’s 2134 and life on Earth is so good — nanotechnology has eliminated inconveniences like old age and poor health — that the only work left is to fight over who gets to enjoy it. The Fate of the World Rests On… the cryonically frozen head of the one person who can prevent global domination by an evil oligarchy. Political Scorecard Universal-health-care advocates battle pay-as-you-go neocons. Lowdown In a standout debut, Marusek pushes the service economy to its painful limits. A-

Counting Heads
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