Starship pilot Terry Radnor is elated to be among those chosen to defend the secret colony Maclairn against enemies who pose a threat to the spread of paranormal human mind powers. He commits himself wholly to the goal of that world, not guessing how far his effort to safeguard it will take him from everything else he cares about–his promising career as a Fleet officer, contact with people who share his newly-discovered psi capability, his wife and unborn child. Torn away against his will after learning a secret too deep for its disclosure to be risked, he is forced into exile from all that matters to him, and must build a new life grounded far from Maclairn. There seems little hope that he can fulfill his pledge to protect the world whose safety is crucial–more crucial than anyone else knows–to the future of humankind. Yetan extraordinary destiny has been predicted for Terry, and fate puts him in place to confront the colony’s greatest peril.
On completion of her training as an agent of the interstellar federation’s Anthropological Service, Elana is sent to a world whose people may soon destroy their civilization. Since not enough is understood about the situation to justify any interference with their evolution, the Service has no power to act; its agents must go as helpless observers, posing as natives, in the hope of gaining knowledge that may help to save other worlds. This passive role proves intolerable to the young, inexperienced agent assigned to the same city as Elana, a city under totalitarian rule. After falling in love with a local girl who has become Elana’s closest friend, he identifies too completely with the natives and unwittingly endangers the entire world by a well-meant but ill-advised attempt to intervene. Forced to assume responsibility for undoing the damage, Elana finds that only she–at great cost–can prevent an immediate war of annihilation.
From the reviews:
“A surprising, haunting, poetic book . . . full of provocative philosophical and psychological questions as well as tense adventure and romance.” —Commonweal
“Gripping psychological science fiction . . . the relationship between the heroine and her sophisticated, unbrutish interrogator is beautifully balanced and adds another dimension to a story which is already multi-faceted.” —Times Literary Supplement, London
“The author has a direct, forceful style of writing that sparks the reader’s imagination.” —Publisher’s Weekly