Author: C.J. Cherryh
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: EOS, 2001
Series: The Gene Wars, Book 1
"I have set my seal on Kais Tain," the Ila said, "and have all persons therein under that seal. Write it!"Synopsis: Marak has suffered the madness his entire life. He is a prince and warrior, strong and shrewd and expert in the ways of the desert covering his planet. In the service of his father, he has dedicated his life to overthrowing the Ila, the mysterious eternal dictator of his world. For years he has successfully hidden the visions that plague him -- voices pulling him eastward, calling Marak, Marak, Marak, amid mind-twisting visions of a silver tower. But when his secret is discovered, Marak is betrayed by his own father and forced to march in an endless caravan with the rest of his world's madmen to the Ila's city of Oburan.
Instead of death, Marak finds in Oburan his destiny, and the promise of life -- if he can survive what is surely a suicidal mission. The Ila wants him to discover the source of the voices and visions that afflict the mad. Despite the dangers of the hostile desert, tensions within the caravan, and his own excruciating doubts, Marak miraculously reaches his goal -- only to be given another, even more impossible mission by the strange people in the towers.
According to these beings who look like him yet act differently than anyone he has ever known, Marak has a slim chance to save his world's people from the wrath of the Ilas enemies. But to do so, he must convince them all -- warring tribes, villagers, priests, young and old, as well as the Ila herself -- to follow him on an epic trek across the burning desert before the hammer of the Ila's foes falls from the heavens above.
"These are the makers," Luz said. "The Ila understands. Now you know what she knows. The makers flowed out into the pool and the beasts she had brought drank, and bred, and changed as the Ila directed. The beasts changed, and men changed to fit this land."Review: I'm not exactly sure what has happened yet to Marak and the other people who suffer from the madness, but I'm pretty sure it has something to do with genetic engineering. These people see such horrible visions and hear voices to the point that they almost cannot lead normal lives. But, they are somehow the answer to a far worse problem.
The Ila, their goddess and ruler, somehow peopled this planet with what seem to be humans, only slightly altered to be able to exist in the harsh environment. Now, more of the Ila's people have come and changed some of the people yet again into the mad ones, to try to stop the entire civilization from being destroyed.
The ondat are the Ila's enemies and they are going to wipe out all life on the planet, except in one very small corner of the world. This is where Marak must lead all the people and their self-centered and egotistical ruler. And, time has run out. The planet is being hit by space debris sent by the ondat and the hammer is coming. The hammer is a planet killer and it's just days away.
This was a really good story. It left me breathless in some places. I could see the Lakht and the Holy City and the tower and everything else as if it were real. It was not, however, an easy read by any means. Much re-reading of paragraphs was necessary. The story is told from Marak's point of view and he does not understand what has happened to him and his people. So, little is actually known of what has happened to cause all this chaos, even at the end of the book. I'm glad there's another book in the series and trust that it will answer many of the questions.
Meanwhile, Marak and his wives Hati and Norit are great characters. And there are many others, too numerous to mention. The setting is realistic and the threat to the planet believable.
Rating: 8.5 / 10