Summer Reading

In Texas

The Z Radiant

by Jessica Reisman

Five Star, 210 pp., $25.95

Developing and exploring completely alien worlds has been a mainstay of science fiction literature since Camille Flammarion's Lumen was published in 1887. With her first novel, The Z Radiant, Austinite Jessica Reisman continues the tradition.

Accessible only via a wormhole, Nentesh is located in an isolated section of space. Every 20 years, apparently angelic visitors from the other end of the wormhole arrive with technological advancements from the rest of the universe. During the Ingress Festival, the Nenteshi celebration for this generational event, some of the Nenteshi leave with the visitors, while some of the people from the outsystem remain.

Swan, settler from the outsystem; her lover, Ula, a refugee from the Nentesh nomadic desert people; Aren, abandoned on Nentesh during the last Ingress; and Ninuel, a disenfranchised member of an influential Nentesh family, each must come to terms with their identities and the changing circumstances of their worlds before and during the festival. Reisman expands the boundaries of traditional science fiction tropes with explorations into gender issues, sexuality, and the mysterious existence-morphing drug "Z."

Within the Austin science-fiction community, Reisman is known as a writer of powerful, thought-provoking stories. In The Z Radiant, mixed within her expressive prose, there are some odd word choices and occasionally distracting dialogue, but the author easily justifies her reputation with this intelligent, absorbing debut.

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