A pair of psychic talents, one empath and one telepath, consider themselves star-crossed lovers. They investigate the suicidal religious practices of a humanoid alien species. This species, called the Shkeen, has been stuck in the Bronze Age for 14000 years.
A masterful treatment of dysteleology and lotus eaters. The former is more nuanced than H. P. Lovecraft, the latter far more sensitive and intelligent than anything in Star Trek (1966). Unlike both, Martin can write strong characters. Dino Valcarenghi in particular is an excellent supporting character, just the man for his job because of the specific way he’s crippled. I might have to raise my rating when I re-read this.
Martin attempts something like The Word for World Is Forest (1972) crossed with a violent human chauvinist cult prefiguring 40K’s Imperium and worshipping a child version of Elric. A good concept on paper but it doesn’t have Le Guin’s depth of thought.
This review refers to the expanded (1981) version, not the original written in 1978 and published in 1980.
A computer merged with an insane psychic in a special crystal kills people.
Competently executed, but the soft science-fiction aspects are merely OK, and the horror is a little stereotypical. For some reason, despite the purported cultural diversity of the “thousand worlds”, everybody is completely casual about sex and the jobs are entirely recognizable from the real world, except that the psychics work. Melantha is just a bit better at everything, a disappointingly conservative vision of far-future human genetic engineering propping up a Mary Sue final girl. More problematically, the solution to the mystery is extremely soft stuff, all squick and no hard mechanism. The cast of Gothic SF academics is wasted.