Published just last year in hardcover, John Barnes's Orbital Resonance catapulted its author into the first rank of science fiction writers, earning a place on the final ballot for the Nebula Award and garnering praise from sources as diverse as Dean Ing ("A strong contender!") and Jane Yolen ("John Barnes is a writer we'd all do well to keep our eyes on"). Now Barnes returns with an even stronger followup, a classic of brilliant SF speculation and profoundly human concern, set against a sprawling interstellar future of complexity, danger, and hope.
The most isolated of humanity's Thousand Cultures, Nou Occitan - on the planet Wilson - is a place where duels are fought with equal passion over insults and artistic views alike. Where young men take loyalty seriously: to each other, to their art, to the women to whom they devote poetry and swordplay. A place of violent natural beauty, gradually being terraformed over centuries into a tamed - but not too tamed - home for a uniquely creative and flamboyant culture.
But change has come to Nou Occitan. Formerly isolated like all the other widely-scattered Cultures by the limitations of lightspeed, now this swashbuckling world finds itself being transformed by the springer, the new technology of instantaneous travel between the stars. In the urban centers, a small but growing number of Occitan youth embrace a new way of lifeinsufferably vulgar, to chivalrous Occitan eyes - in imitation of the newer, polyglot interstellar culture. Young Giraut, a traditionalist, knows this change is inevitable and merely hopes the old order will last long enough for him to enjoy the fruits of youth. But when Giraut's entendedora betrays him in the worst possible way, in his despair he casts aside his youthful pursuits and, expecting grim, expiatory exile, joins his elders on a two-year mission to negotiate new trading arrangements with Nou Occitan's closest neighbor, lightyears distant, the utilitarian culture of Caledony. Giraut expec