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A-Forbidden CargoMars and Earth, 22nd century. Sashimu and Thesni are Imagofas, young women genetically engineered by the Order to channel the Molecular Advantage Machine (MAM), a kind of Internet on steroids, without any outside aid. Kidnapped and brought to Earth by the Council in a plot to destroy the Order, the women are separated when their ship is wrecked in Earth’s orbit. With the support of some unlikely characters—including The Cadet, a virtual gladiator, and Prometheus, a MAM entity yearning for consciousness—the two struggle to be reunited and to return home.
EDGE. 352 pages. $14.95. ISBN: 1894063163 4 of 5 Stars
"This gem of a book has it all. … [Forbidden Cargo] is not just a good first novel, it’s a really good novel." Paul Lappen

The Harrow 4 of 5 Stars
"Forbidden Cargo is a complex and imaginative first novel. … It’s a cyberpunkish thriller full of narrow escapes, political machinations, virtual combat, and deeply memorable characters, all flavored with a touch of Eastern philosophy and a nod toward contemporary debates in biotechnology." Dru Pagliassotti

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"[Rowe’s] rich descriptive language and arch dialogue potently reflect her surreal world. … Dealing with issues of freedom and responsibility, as well as epistemological and existential quandaries, Rowe still manages to deliver a slam-bang adventure." Paul DiFilippo

SFRevu 3.5 of 5 Stars
"[The novel] 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." Carolyn Frank

Emerald City 2.5 of 5 Stars
"The book is a first novel, and Rowe isn’t quite up to carrying off the power of her ideas. … The complexity of the plot shows that Rowe has a lot of promise as a novelist." Cheryl Morgan

Critical Summary

Rebecca K. Rowe’s first novel fuses Eastern philosophy and social commentary with an edgy sci-fi plot reminiscent of Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash. The plot of Forbidden Cargo drags a bit through the first third, though dedicated SF readers who stick with it will be rewarded with rich backdrops, an intelligent exploration of some weighty issues, and, perhaps most important, well-written action sequences and interesting supporting characters. For the most part, the author avoids the pitfalls of the novice in a genre where seams are easily exposed and success often follows word-of-mouth recommendations. Consensus suggests that Rowe’s imagination and style will serve her well in future efforts.