Christopher Evans
Mortal Remains (1995)
Reviewed: 1997-11-13

A far-future Solar System. Just how far in the future we never learn. The inner planets and the major moons have been terraformed and make up the Settled Worlds. Vast-scale bioengineering has brought general prosperity and radically changed the human environment. Everything from clothing and household appliances to homes and transportation, including spacecraft, is preferably if not always a custom-grown animal. People live up to 100 years while their bodies remain youthful, then they leave the physical world and enther the spiritual Noosphere. Special shrines are readily available for communication between the living and their ancestors in the Noosphere. There is little dissent; the Augmenters, who refuse to abide by the taboo that the human body is not to be modified, have been pushed to the outer reaches of the Solar System.

The peaceful picture is shattered when a spaceship carrying a strange womb crashes on Mars. The inscrutable organic container changes the lives of all those who come into its possession. Covert parties don't shy from intrigue or murder to obtain the womb, chasing its unhappy holders through the Solar System, thereby inviting the reader to visit many strange worlds. Meanwhile, public attention is held by the outbreak of Dementia in the outer System, a mysterious disease causing violent madness in its victims. And on Luna, a man and a woman out of a past age are raised from the dead to work for the Noosphere.

Only slowly the social and political makeup is revealed of what turns out to be an intricately constructed world. In particular the pseudo-religious ancestor worship is well integrated with the portrayed society. As far as the technology is concerned, Evans simply replaces electronic/mechanical devices with organic ones; he doesn't have the sly wit of, say, Iain M. Banks to derive much of the possible humor from this. This is purely a sense-of-wonder novel and space opera, there is never any discussion of the underlying science or engineering.

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