Human civilization spans the galaxies, its foremost
philosophy that the universe was created for mankind to fill. Now,
however, all human life has completely disappeared from some
colonized planets and the phenomenon is spreading, except for one
world -- Dinadh -- which remains untouched.
A team travels to Dinadh, hoping to learn what keeps that planet
safe. During a local religious ceremony, they are transported, along
with Saluez, a young Dinadhi woman outcast from her society, through
a wormhole in space to another planet, one already stripped of human
There they find that the answer to the fate of human civilization
rests in their souls . . .
As always, Sheri Tepper creates strong characters and devilishly
interesting scenarios on which to string her plot. And as with some
previous novels -- Beauty in particular -- Shadow's End
is a cautionary tale, this time about man's arrogance in driving
animals to extinction. This time it doesn't work.
Two major flaws compromise the integrity of the novel.
The first is the structure of Shadow's End itself. Tepper
has chosen a first person narrator, Saluez, but the scope of the
story is much larger than Saluez's participation. The general
convention is that other characters at some point tell everything to
Saluez, but as a plot device this feels more than a little contrived.
Yet the story is strong enough to support this, a tribute to Tepper's
skill as a storyteller.
The second and fatal flaw is this: The plot falls apart some
thirty pages from the end, exactly at the crucial moment when the
mystery should be made clear. Despite subtle references throughout,
the revelation that the extinction of animals is to blame for the
current crisis comes as a sudden left hook. All the puzzle pieces
that nearly fit together scatter. Tepper does not satisfactorily
explain things by the end of the book; nor does Shadow's End
seem to require a sequel. The reader can only wonder -- what
Sheri Tepper is the author of over twenty novels of science
fiction, fantasy, horror, and mystery.
This review copyright 1997 by Wendy Morris