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Forbidden Cargo by Rebecca K. Rowe
Review by Carolyn Frank
EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 1894063163
Date: 01 August, 2006 List Price $14.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

The Imagofas are described as having numerous more than human capabilities, however, only two are ever shown: the ability to quickly heal themselves or others who they touch, and the ability to wirelessly meld into the Molecular Advantage Machine or MAM. The MAM is a virtual system that enables anyone plugged in to access humanity's knowledge and experience. Somehow, the nano portion of their makeup enables the Imagofas to tap into the MAM and use it with their minds; their bodies however require the normal sustenance and have issues dealing with the heavier Earth gravity.

The struggles of these two Imagofas to free themselves from their capturers, find each other and return to Mars form one of the major plot lines. In parallel, the woman who started the plot to bring an Imagofas to Earth to have them discredited and destroyed, Joli, attempts to deal both with her rising political stature and her husband, Creid Xerkler, the man who helped initiate the illegal nano-human engineering project as a member of the Order. One of two major competing political entities, the Order, wants to use the Imagofas to start the building of a better human race, one better able to populate other worlds. The other, the Council, which Joli is scheming to head, wants to destroy these illegal constructs.

Along their way, the Imagofas are aided by several unlikely characters that portray other elements of this Earth's society. The Cadet is a gamer, living underground among the masses, while making his livelihood as a designated player for various major business families. Ochbo is an engineering genius of a monk and Prometheus is MAM construct seeking to become real.

This version of Earth blends old with future, subway trains with space travel, drug dealers in back alleys with fantastic healing devices in hospitals, old fashion political back room dealing with the ultimate video game where spectators can literally plug into the two humans fighting to near death. Unfortunately for the reader, most of these dichotomies do not blend into a greater whole or even make much sense within the given context.

The book has no sex, no humor, no mystery, and no breathless prose. It is well crafted, with reasonably three-dimensional major characters (at least the women), and a stimulating interwoven plot. With its nano-tech perspective and infatuation with futuristic politics, this book talks to fans who prefer their science fiction with a hard social science dimension.

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