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About the Author
Gerald M. Weinberg (Jerry) writes "nerd novels," such as The Aremac Project, about how brilliant people produce quality work. Information on more of his books can be found at . Before taking up his science fiction career, he published books on human behavior, including Weinberg on Writing: The Fieldstone Method, The Psychology of Computer Programming, Perfect Software and Other Fallacies, and an Introduction to General Systems Thinking. He also wrote books on leadership including Becoming a Technical Leader, The Secrets of Consulting (Foreword by Virginia Satir), More Secrets of Consulting, and the four-volume Quality Software Management series. He incorporates his knowledge of science, engineering, and human behavior into all of writing and consulting work (with writers, hi-tech researchers, and software engineers). Early in his career, he was the architect for the Mercury Project's space tracking network and designer of the world's first multiprogrammed operating system. Winner of the Warnier Prize and the Stevens Award for his writing on software quality, he is also a charter member of the Computing Hall of Fame in San Diego and the University of Nebraska Hall of Fame.
Etiquette bans wearing white after Labor Day. On Precursor, the planetary setting of Gerald Weinberg's immensely entertaining novel Mistress of Molecules, such a stricture is superfluous given the impracticality of white clothing in its dismal, pollution-filled environment. Which is not to imply that Precursor eschews rules; on the contrary, it is a society replete with onerous ecclesial canons enforced by an exclusively male ministerial arm against citizenry enslaved through addiction to crocus - a drug that is both vital to human survival in Precursor's hostile atmosphere and monopolistically controlled by a cartel of church, state and corporations. The novel's opening scene dramatically portrays this oppressiveness in its depiction of a kangaroo court overseen by a pope who has preordained the sentence and execution of Nicholas Valois whose only real crime was being a threat to Precursor's ruling hegemony by his discovery of the means to manufacture crocus.
A science fiction novel with humans settled on different planets controlled by religious zealots may at first seem incongruous, but humans did not invent the advanced technology that enabled their galactic Diaspora. Instead, it was given them by the alien Zgaarid to use allowing the story to posit a future that is an extrapolation of the 17th and 18th century colonization of the United States and thereby to create an imaginative, yet never improbable, setting for the two principal characters - Libra and Andre. Libra, who lives on Precursor, is Nicolas' posthumous daughter and a skilled chemist in her own right. Andre was born on Gemariah where, although he suffered a Dickensian childhood of moralistic abuse at his father's hand, he manages to become literate via the powers of his native curiosity and intelligence.Read more ›
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**Spoiler warning - I do give some detail of the book in my review. Some of my favorite parts we left out so others could discover them on their own as I did.**
I was intrigued by the description of this book. I was even more pleased to find that one of the main characters, Libra, is a chemist's daughter (as am I). The similarities really end there. Libra is a brilliant girl raised by an alcoholic Mom. She seems to be influenced more by the short video of her father's trial that ended in his death. She's been waiting her whole young life planning revenge against the church (which controls the government) that killed him. She has a clever plan to strike at the industry that pollutes her planet so much no one has ever seen the sun. Helping her is the fact that women on this world are seen only as baby factories without much intelligence. This allows her to keep her father's lab and move around with anonymity. I like how her clever plans have small flaws. It's more realistic and suspenseful.
One thing that interested me was the transformation of religion in this future. Basically, humans have taken small bits out of the texts of most major religions and combined them into one small book. The original texts are locked up tight and most people don't even know they exist.
One common thread in both stories is the Zgaarid. They are a race of aliens who connect many planets via their trade routes. They share just enough of their technology with the people there to allow them to produce what is needed for their home world. They aren't exactly bad but have a limited view of the races and planets they utilize.
Just when you're ready to find out how the first stage of Libra's plan turns out, we switch over to Andre's story.Read more ›
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Gerald Weinberg's sci-fi work 'Mistress of Molecules' is, on the surface, a tale about chemicals, eco-terrorism, and interstellar travel. However, it works on another level - one of two people, each seeking freedom of their own. They may start out in different sections of the galaxy, but it's when they come together that things kick into high gear.
Libra, a gifted chemist, seeks to liberate the residents of her planet, Precursor, from the pollution-spewing policies that cut lifespan by almost half. Making matters even more dangerous is the nature of her society, which is run by a quasi-religious police state.
In another part of the galaxy, the young man Andre is brought up amidst squalor and abuse, in both his own household and in the religious order he's inducted into. Some of the book's more tense and gripping scenes take place where Andre finally rebels, and desperately flees the confines of the monastary-island and stows away aboard a starship.
Andre, against all odds, manages to survive and thrive amidst the alien race he encounters, the Zgaarid. But his world is turned upside down yet again as he meets the mysterious and intriguingly alluring Libra on Precursor.
Without giving away any more spoilers, let's just say that their road together doesn't run smoothly. But it's wide, deep, and the consequences shape the future of both the humans' world and that of the Zgaarid.
A solid, engaging sci-fi read!
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