Tor, Nov 9 2010, $25.99
The sentient space traveling vessel Ship plants the human seeds on many worlds. Before disembarking, Ship always promises to return to judge humanity. On the planet Home, Ship left behind humanity (see Earthseed), but after he left the species divided into two branches (see Farseed). Inside of the dome left behind by Ship lives the Dome Dwellers who believe they only abide to the creator’s admonition of being “true humanity” while waiting for the second coming. Those who left the dome to live off the land near the great river as farmers and hunters are technologically low. These River People believe Ship’s vision for mankind is to live in harmony on Home. Each side believes strongly the other side is “contaminated”.
The River People see the strange light in the sky they assume means Ship has returned for Judgment Day. Inside the dome, excitement and fear is high that Ship has come back to see how humanity has fared. However, the dome radio operators find their communication devices fail to make contact with Ship. The River Dwellers are concerned that the Dome Dwellers have sold them out as impure. Teenagers Bian and Arnagh begin a journey to the dome to learn what is going on.
With obvious religious implications of a second coming judgment day in which each side of humanity expects Ship to choose their way of life over the other as Pamela Sargent provides a deep science fiction story in which she lucidly makes the case that materialism (Dwellers) without purpose is futile. The reactions to the anticipated return is fascinating since the Dome Dwellers insist they are “true” yet fear Judgment while the River People fear the Dome Dwellers have left them to be condemned. Although the characters are somewhat interchangeable except for the teens, readers will enjoy this philosophical look at two cultures in which regardless of what Ship rules life will never be the same as the creator has returned.