Probability Moon

Probability Moon

by Nancy Kress

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Humankind has expanded out into interstellar space using star gates-technological remnants left behind by an ancient, long-vanished race. But the technology comes with a price. Among the stars, humanity encountered the Fallers, a strange alien race bent on nothing short of genocide. It's all-out war, and humanity is losing.

In this fragile situation, a new planet is discovered, inhabited by a pre-industrial race who experience "shared reality"-they're literally compelled to share the same worldview. A team of human scientists is dispatched-but what they don't know is that their mission of first contact is actually a covert military operation.

For one of the planet's moons is really a huge mysterious artifact of the same origin as the star gates . . . and it just may be the key to winning the war.

At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781466824423
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date: 09/16/2002
Series: The Probability Trilogy , #1
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 473,113
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Nancy Kress is a Hugo and Nebula Award-winning author of more than twenty books, including more than a dozen novels of science fiction and fantasy, as well as three story collections, and two books on writing. Probability Space, the final book in the Probability trilogy, won the John W. Campbell Award for Best Science Fiction novel. She has also written the Cosmic Crossfire series and the Yesterday’s Kin trilogy, as well as standalones including Maximum Light and Steal Across the Sky.
Nancy Kress is the author of more than thirty books, including novels, short story collections, and nonfiction books about writing. Her work has won six Nebulas, two Hugos, a Sturgeon, and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. She expanded two of her Nebula Award winners into successful trilogies: the novella Yesterday's Kin into a trilogy (Tomorrow's Kin, If Tomorrow Comes, and Terran Tomorrow), and the novelette "The Flowers of Aulit Prison" into the Probability Trilogy. Kress’s work has been translated into two dozen languages, including Klingon, none of which she can read. She lives in Seattle with her husband, writer Jack Skillingstead, and Cosette, the world’s most spoiled toy poodle.

Read an Excerpt

Probability Moon

By Nancy Kress, David G. Hartwell

Tom Doherty Associates

Copyright © 2000 Nancy Kress
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4668-2442-3



When Enli came outside at sunrise, her flower beds had been destroyed. The curving line of border stones had been pointedly straightened. The jelit bushes, not yet in flower, sat broken into pathetic piles of twigs. No one, of course, would harm the ollinib or pajalib, now in full glorious bloom; they must have been transplanted to some neighbor's garden. Enli studied the holes where the broken jelitib had been. At the bottom of one hole was something dark and matted, vaguely damp-looking. She fished it out with a stick. A dead freb. Enli poked the little mammal carefully, to see how it had died, and eventually she saw the place in the flopping neck where the knife had gone in.

So her neighbors even knew about Tabor.

Enli's neckfur prickled. She glanced around. No one in sight, even though the sun was above the horizon and the weather clear and warm. There should have been people riding to the fields, to the soap manufactury by the river, to Rafkit Seloe. Children should be playing in the village square, eating their cold breakfasts together, grudgingly minding smaller brothers and sisters. Instead, there was only silence and emptiness, as pointed a message as the straightened stone border and missing plants. Her neighbors were waiting for Enli Pek Brimmidin to leave.

She walked around the flower bed again, pretending to study it, working to calm her breathing. It was always a shock. Not an unexpected shock — this was, after all, the fifth time that a village had discovered who she was and forced her to move on. Sometimes they did it this way, stopping all real activities in her presence. Other times they just looked straight through her, pretending not to see her, carrying on the life of the village as if an unreal person were not among them, as if Enli were a ghost. Which, of course, she was. She was unreal.

Well, she couldn't stay here any longer. Her neighbors had the right of it, after all. How much did they know? That she was unreal, yes. That she stood convicted of killing her brother. That Reality and Atonement had, for reasons of their own, not put her in Aulit Prison for the crime. Did the neighbors know that she was working to earn back her reality? Probably not. Although the brighter ones might guess. Old Frablit, for instance. Not much got past that one's grizzled neckfur. Maybe Inno. Maybe Glamit.

Enli sat down on the bench outside her hut to consider where she should go. Farther north, maybe. Word about her might not travel north as easily; most people in this village seemed to have family toward the south. She looked again at the straight line of border stones, where last night there had been a long, graceful curve. Ugly, ugly. She should leave soon, this morning, now.

Already her headpain had burst past what the government pills could control. Maybe she should raise the dosage. Reality and Atonement had said she could do that, if the unreality hurt too bad ... So far, Enli had made do with the lower dosage. You had to be tough to stay unreal and not go mad. Well, Enli was tough. You had to be tough to kill your beloved brother, too.

No, don't think about that.

Enli jumped to her feet. She would go now, this minute. Pack her few belongings — the hut and furniture were leased, of course — get her bicycle from the shed, and go. Before her neighbors started getting head-pain, too. She owed them that much.

Someone was bicycling toward Enli's hut.

She shaded her eyes from the sun's low, red rising and squinted along the road. As she did so, she caught again that gleam in the sky, a flash of sudden light ... what was that? She'd seen it before, always at sunrise or sunset, like something shiny high in the sky. Not one of World's seven moons, not a bird ... There was nothing else it could be. I don't see it, old Frablit had said to her, and Inno, and even the children. But Enli had better eyes than even the children. Strong, ugly, sharp-eyed, that was she. Oh, and, of course, unreal.

The approaching traveler was identifiable now. A young man on a government bicycle, his neckfur barely out of child-brown. If he was from Reality and Atonement — and of course he was, no other government section would write to Enli while she was unreal — then he knew she was unreal. If he took notice of Enli, even to deliver a government message, he would be tacitly admitting that the illusionary woman sitting on a bench existed, which of course he couldn't do. It was a nice point.

The messenger did the right thing. Ignoring her, he tossed a letter, neatly addressed to Enli Pek Brimmidin, down by the dusty road. Then he pedaled back toward the city.

The letter was shaped into a utilitarian circle, very businesslike, with a generic government seal. Enli opened it. A summons: They had a job for her.

She let out a long thankful breath. Sometimes the flowers of the soul bloomed just when you most needed them. A job would take her away from here. A job would give her something to do. Most important, a job would earn more atonement toward completing her sentence. If it was a big enough job, it might even finish her punishment, setting her free to become real again. And, of course, setting Tabor free as well.

Enli packed her shoulder sack, wheeled her bicycle out of its shed, and started for the city. Probably she would never see this place again. There was still no one around. Well, let them hide. She didn't care.

But she had to stop her bicycle to take another pill. Damn the head-pain! Boring right between her eyes, it was almost bad enough for tears. So much unreality, so much isolation ... No. She wouldn't think about it. She would think instead about the job ahead, about the beauty of the wildflowers along the road to the city, about anything at all except that she was unreal, and alone, and had murdered her brother.

All morning Enli rode steadily. It was Am, that luscious season, and the larfruit was ready to harvest. Villagers swarmed over the orchards, singing and picking. Between the villages and orchards lay long lush stretches of uninhabited road, glorious with wildflowers. Shade-blooming vekifirib, yellow mittib, the flaming red bells of adkinib. The warm air smelled sweet as shared reality, and in the sky the sun burned clear orange. Enli passed few bicycles or handcarts, and made good time toward Rafkit Seloe. She could be there by noon.

But then, just a few miles shy of Rafkit Seloe, she turned her bicycle off the main road, toward the village of Gofkit Shamloe. Suddenly, desperately, Enli wanted one more look at Tabor.

The house of Enli's sister, Ano Pek Brimmidin, stood in the very heart of Gofkit Shamloe, off the central square. At this time of day, the square frothed with harvesters back for dinner. Old men cooked and women weaved and children made nuisances of themselves by chasing each other between the solid brick hearths. Delicious dinner smells floated on the warm air. A group of young people danced, giggling, to the rather inept piping of old Solor Pek Raumul. In Gofkit Shamloe, meals were always the best time, for as long back as Enli could remember. The time of life and warmth, the time when shared reality filled the air as strongly as the scent of roasting meat.

She rode through the villagers as if she were invisible. No one stopped her, spoke to her, glanced at her. No one barred her from slipping through the open door of Ano's house.

Tabor lay on his bed in the back room. He rested on his back, his strong young legs straight as trees, his fingers lightly curled. His neckfur, more golden than either Ano's or Enli's (unfair — why had the boy gotten all the beauty?), floated in the bondage chemicals of his clear coffin. He looked no older than when the servants of the First Flower had imprisoned him, making him as unreal as Enli, for their mutual crime. When Enli leaned over the coffin, Tabor's unseeing dark eyes stared back at her.

"One more year's atonement, Tabor. Less thirty-six days. Then you will be free. And so will I."

Tabor said nothing. But, of course, there was no need. He knew as well as Enli did the time until his burial, when he would be released from the chemicals and glass that bound his dead body and so could rejoin their ancestors. Enli had heard that some of the unreal dead complained and recriminated, especially in dreams, making the houses in which they lay a misery. Not Tabor, Enli thought. Tabor had always been a well-mannered person, and he wouldn't trouble Ano's house. Nor would he trouble Ano's sleep with fear and dreams. Only Enli's sleep.

The door to the bedroom creaked. Enli's nephew, small Fentil, came into the room, took something out of a wooden chest, and left again, carefully not seeing her. His mother had taught him well. But above his soft childish neckfur his little head must hurt, and his real presence made Enli's headpain even worse. Clearly, it was time to go.

She walked back through Ano's house, not looking at its flower altar — she owed Ano at least that, to not pollute her flowers with unreal gazes — and rode her bicycle down the road toward the capital.

To Enli's surprise, the clerk at Reality and Atonement addressed her by name. "Pek Brimmidin, you may go in now."

Usually the man, very old and very sour, with neckfur gone beyond yellow or even gray right up to a sparse sickly no-color dun, never spoke. He looked at the unreal who came to petition or object or report in; he must look at them in order to enter their comings and goings in the records, just as he must know Enli's name. But never before had he addressed her by it.

"Thank you," Enli said, to see if he would say more. But his eyes went unfocused again, the brief period of shared reality over.

Why had it happened in the first place? What did the sour old man know about Enli's upcoming job? Possibly quite a bit. Long-retained clerks always did.

Cartot Pek Nagredil's office was empty when she entered, which gave her time to examine the extraordinarily ugly sculptures on his table. Curves too exaggerated, colors too harsh. Enli felt a sudden, delayed pang for her vanished pajalib, with their exquisite curving petals. There were not, of course, any flowers in Pek Nagredil's office, where they would be exposed to the gaze of the unreal. Nor would anyone offer her a hospitality flower. Not her.

"Pek Brimmidin. I have an informant job for you." Pek Nagredil never wasted words. He was only middle-aged but so solid, so immovable, that Enli wondered if he even needed pills to talk with her. Was that possible? Could Pek Nagredil be so coarse that he didn't feel the large, dull pain in the soul, like gravel grinding inside the skull, or even that sharp hard shock between the eyes, when it became evident that two people did not see World the same way? No. Not possible. To be a Worlder was to share reality with other Worlders, or to suffer the physical pain of not doing so. Pek Nagredil was a man; he could be no different from anyone else. He had a soul. He must use the pills.

Enli asked, "What is the job, Pek Nagredil?"

"To inform on the Terrans that are coming to live in the household of Hadjil Pek Voratur."

Enli felt her mouth fall open. She tried to speak, but no words came out.

"You may have heard that the Terrans have returned," Pek Nagredil said, imperturbable. He moved a sculpture a tiny bit to the right, stepped back to observe the effect, and moved it back to the left.

"No," Enli finally managed. "I had not heard that." She had never seen a Terran. Hardly anybody had seen a Terran. They had come a half year ago, to a village on the other side of Rafkit Seloe, in a metal boat that flew down from the sky. They were amazingly ugly, ran the reports, and amazingly ignorant, but apparently not dangerous. They asked a lot of rude questions but also gave some very nice presents, which induced some people to answer the questions. After a few tendays, they had abruptly packed up and left in their flying boat. The most important questions, of course, were not theirs but Worlders': Were these Terrans real? Did they have souls? The priests of Reality and Atonement had only just begun their inquiry into this when the Terrans, without so much as a farewell flower, had left World.

Now apparently they were back.

"We knew the Terrans would return," Pek Nagredil said. "They were overheard to say, 'We will come back for the manufactured item.' They're great traders, you see. Now, Pek Brimmidin, you can see that this is a sensitive job. That's why we asked you, Pek Brimmidin. You have done good informant work. And Reality and Atonement allows me to say this: If you also complete this job well, then your debt to shared reality will be washed away. You will again be real, and so will Tabor your brother."

Again be real. Enli lowered her head. She didn't want Pek Nagredil to see her face. To be real again ... and Tabor, too. Tabor, who lay in his coffin preserved in the bondage chemicals that kept his body from decaying and so releasing his soul. Tabor would be broken from his coffin, washed clean, buried under a mound of flowers. His soul would be released to join their ancestors. And Enli would live again in Gofkit Shamloe with Ano, cooking at midday on the communal fires and dancing on the green and growing flowers openly, without guilt, without shame ...

A hunger so fierce swept over her that, had she not known better, she would have said she still had her soul.

"I accept the job, Pek Nagredil."

"Good. This is what has happened. A Terran who visited World before, one Ahmed Pek Bazargan, came yesterday in his metal flying boat to a village south of here, Gofkit Jemloe. He asked to live in the great household there, the Voratur, in return for any rent they chose to ask. Household Oversight approved the request, and naturally Hadjil Pek Voratur accepted."

"Naturally," Enli said. Even in Gofkit Shamloe she had heard of the Voratur. They were a great trading family, rich and respected, and the Terrans had already demonstrated their willingness to share marvelous trade goods. Enli heard her own voice, and was glad it again sounded normal.

"Six Terrans will live with the Voratur. Many sections of the government besides Household Oversight are interested in the Terran visit, as you can perhaps imagine."

Enli certainly could. So the question would bloom all over again, like the First Flower: Were the Terrans real?

"You will live in the Voratur household, Pek Brimmidin," Pek Nagredil said, "and you will inform on everything the Terrans do and say. Your position in the household will be cleaning servant, with special attention to the crelm house where the Voratur and Terran children will live."

"The ... children? Terran children?"

"Yes. You will —"

"There are Terran children? What Terran children? Why would the Terrans bring children?"

For the first time, Pek Nagredil looked slightly discomfited. "They say to raise them as Worlders. Along with the Voratur children."

Enli and Pek Nagredil stared at each other, the air heavy with what neither said. Children were not born real; they must grow to participate in shared reality. A few tragic empty ones never did so and must, of course, be destroyed. If the Terrans wanted their children "raised as Worlders," did that mean they wanted them to become real? And did that in turn mean that the adult Terrans weren't already real? That they had no souls?

"You will report here every tenday," Pek Nagredil said, taking visible refuge in normal routine, "and report everything you have learned about the Terrans. Every detail, no matter how small."

"Pek Nagredil," Enli blurted, "am I going to be supplying information that actually determines whether or not Terrans are real?"

"That's not for you to know," Pek Nagredil said severely, and Enli saw his skull ridges throb slightly. She knew he was right. She had no right to expect to know why she was informing, or what the information would be used for. To tell her those things would be to make her a sharer in reality, and she had excluded herself from that by her own crime.

"Yes, Pek Nagredil," Enli said. "I will report to the Voratur household tomorrow morning."


Excerpted from Probability Moon by Nancy Kress, David G. Hartwell. Copyright © 2000 Nancy Kress. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Title Page,
Tor Copyright Notice,
Tor Books By Nancy Kress,
Praise for PROBABILITY SUN, sequel to Probability Moon,
Copyright Page,

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Probability Moon 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I stayed up all night reading this book--it was too good to put down. Filled with suspense, mystery and science, Probability Moon captured my attention and didn't let go. However, the book contains many extended passages concerning the intricate workings of molecular science, which (while I, and anyone who loves biology will, found to be intriguing and stimulating) could be a little hard to follow. Nancy Kress did an excellent job in creating a believable future while, at the same time, describing a situation and culture fantastical enough to delight my scifi orientated mind. I highly recommend this book and hope you enjoy. I did.
tarsier on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the opening volley of a triology that tells two separate tales - mankind's imminent destruction to xenophobic aliens and the difficulty of anthropological fieldwork in complex context of ulterior motives. There is a central flaw to the story involving faulty parallelism that once forgiven makes this a good read.
ChrisRiesbeck on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Dedicated to Charles (husband Sheffield, presumably), this is Kress writing in 1970s hard-SF mode. You have you data infodumps ("Automatically her mind reviewed the planetary data. Point six nine AUs from its primary, a G8 emitting .48 of Sol's energy per unit area....") , your sketchy characters with barely perceptible backgrounds, a puzzle-driven plot involving an apparently primitive humanoid race, and some classic space opera involving a variant of crashing moons. This came across to me as an affectionate re-creation, with Kress channeling Sheffield much as Borges' Pierre Menard channeled Miguel de Cervantes in "Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote." No better and no worse than the bulk of puzzle-driven hard-SF from the 1970s. I put it on a par with Stableford's Daedalus series. Warning: it's pretty slow going for quite a while, as all the pieces are put in place. There's one bit of characterization that's straight from 1930's SF that was almost enough to make me throw the book down. Then the momentum sharply picks up (page 186 in the hardcover for me) and stays there for the remainder and even explains the annoying bit.
amberwitch on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An interesting exploration of consensual reality in a science fiction setting where humans are at war with an alien race, as well as interact with other aliens.On the alien planet World Enli has been declaret unreal. In order to earn back reality for herself and her dead brother she takes a job informing on a newly arrived anthropological expedition of humans.The humans and the worlders get to know each other, and finally depend on each other dirtside. Meanwhile the ship that brought the expedition to World begons its real mission, exploring an alien artifact orbiting World. The artifact turns out to be a weapon, and has to be kept from the enemy. The artifact is destroyed in the fight for possession of it, and the humans om World is warned that the planet is in danger of becoming radioactive.The world building is welldone, and the aliens believably alien. The story contains a well executed genesis story.