Threshold by Janet E. Morris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Summary: Threshold is a space habitat between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter with a population of a quarter million. Run by a latter-day United Nations, one of its duties is to keep humans off of Earth, now a preserve. Thousands of Muslim pilgrims from other systems are not pleased at being kept from Mecca. Their leader's daughter decides to experience Threshold's decadent (to her) society with the heir to a powerful exploration corporation, who is also smuggling illegal life forms into the habitat, thus threatening the stability of a conference on the rights of nonhuman races and ALIs--Artificial Living Individuals which the Muslims treat as they do their women: like property. Captain Joseph South, on a test flight through interstellar spongespace, is translated 500 years into our future to arrive at Threshold just as all this is occurring. He has strange memories of a fly-by of system X-3, which match up with visions from an artifact brought to Threshold by a prospector.
4.5 stars. I'm a sucker for stories set on space stations and this one delivered. It reminded me of Downbelow Station by C.J. Cherryh in some ways and that's not a bad thing.
Mickey Croft runs Threshold and is basically determined to herd cats as many things converge upon the space station at a very critical time. His mandate to his people is "Do what needs to be done to make sure a problem isn't". Earth is now an off limits location to most everyone except a very wealthy and select few (more an eco preserve than anything else) and this complicates making the hajj for Muslims from Medina so they've arrived on the station to get as close to Mecca as possible. In addition to this there's a conference discussing "humanity" status and rights for those beings deemed "subhuman". This ties into the Medinan delegation visit too as their protective servants are so designated. Added to this already volatile concoction is the catalyst that no one expected, a starcrossed love affair between Dini Forat, the Mullah's teenage daughter and Rick Cummings III, the teenage son of an eco/business magnate. They set off an interstellar incident complete with the complications of smuggling biological contraband & psychotropic beetles that turns into a bridge to book two in this series. Their involvement puts the lives of the Alis (Medinan protective servants) at immediate risk and calls into service Vince Remson to not only preserve those lives but also get them some sort of established personhood & accompanying rights. Over in Customs & Immigration, Riva Lowe & Reice are dealing with what they call a Relic. Astronaut Joe South, newly arrived at Threshold in his ship STARB1RD (lovingly called Birdy) after awaking from cryosleep off his course and way out of his time, by 500 years! He's, understandably having major adjustment problems and is causing some worry. Luckily, due to some help from Lowe he's given a task that becomes integral to something else huge going on at Threshold. A spacer scavenger named Keebler's found some otherworldly and unreadable orb and South has had a relevant encounter with it during his 500 year sleep.
I quite enjoyed this book and loved how everything came together. I definitely will read the next in the series. Definitely recommended to scifi fans.
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