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Explorer

Foreigner: Arc 2: Book 3

C. J. Cherryh

It has been nearly ten years since the starship Phoenix retuned to the abandoned station orbiting the world of the alien atevi. This station, called Alpha, had been deserted for centuries following a rift between a faction of the station's inhabitants and the spacers' autocratic Pilot's Guild. For two hundred years this splinter faction had shared a fragile coexistence with the atevi, living in isolation on the island of Mospheira, communicating with the brilliant but volatile atevi by the use of a single highly trained diplomat, the paidhi, and trading technological information for continued peace and safety.

The unexpected return of the Phoenix has forever changed the lives of both atevi and Mospheirans, for over the ensuing decade, the captains of the Phoenix have brought both the atevi and their human counterparts into space. Their motivation seemed simple: Reunion Station, a human station in another sector of space, had been destroyed by aliens.

But on his deathbed, the senior captain of the Phoenix admits that he lied to the crew - that Reunion was merely damaged, not destroyed, and many people, including family and friends of the Phoenix crew may have survived. At this disclosure, the crew rebels and forces the Phoenix to undertake a rescue mission to Reunion.

But the crew and captains do not go alone, for on board are Bren Cameron, brilliant human paidhi, now representing Tabini-aiji, the atevi ruler, and Tabini's grandmother Ilisidi, the aiji-dowager, a fearsome, wily, and ambitious atevi leader with an agenda of her own.

Trapped in a distant star system with very little fuel left, facing a potentially bellicose alien ship, how can Bren help to avoid interspecies war when the notoriously secretive Pilot's Guild aboard Reunion Station won't even cooperate with their own ship, and may have kept the inhabitants of their own station ignorant of their true situation?

Intruder

Foreigner: Arc 5: Book 1

C. J. Cherryh

Civil war on the world of the atevi seems to be over, but diplomatic disputes and political infighting continue unabated. Bren Cameron, brilliant human diplomat allied with the dominant Western Association, has just returned to the capital from his country home on the coast. But his sojourn was anything but restful. Attacked by rebel forces hoping to kill not only him, but also Ilisidi, the grandmother, and Cajieri, the young son, of Tabini-aiji, the powerful head of the Western Association, Bren and his resourceful associates have had a small war of their own to contend with. And this small war has ended with a daring proposition: that their longtime enemy Machigi, having been double-crossed by his allies and approached by Ilisidi with an offer of alliance, will sign a trade agreement with her Eastern district-a situation which has upset both the rebels and the loyal north.

But Bren's accustomed role as negotiator for Tabini, Ilisidi, and their associates has suddenly changed radically—for Machigi, to Bren's utter shock, has evoked an ancient law. Bren wears the white ribbon that for the last few centuries has identified the single official human-atevi negotiator. But before humans landed, this white ribbon represented a specialized negotiator between atevi adversaries—a mediator who agreed to represent both sides with equal loyalty. These ancient mediators frequently ended up dead.

Now back in the capital, Bren finds that things are even more complicated than they previously were. He has now been put in the precaroius position of representing both Ilisidi and Machigi to the congress, and is becoming embroiled with both conservative and liberal factions. Meanwhile, Tabini-aiji is enraged to have lost the personal negotiator who has been his associate for decades, and is also jealous of any other party who stands to influence his young son. But there are even more dangerous things afoot, for Bren's bodyguard has warned him there is a crisis inside the immensely dangerous Assassins' Guild, and that the recent dustup with the Shadow Guild, a rebellious faction within the Assassins, may be only the beginning.

Semiosis

Semiosis: Book 1

Sue Burke

Colonists from Earth wanted the perfect home, but they'll have to survive on the one they found. They don't realize another life form watches... and waits...

Only mutual communication can forge an alliance with the planet's sentient species and prove that humans are more than tools.

City of Pearl

The Wess'Har Series: Book 1

Karen Traviss

Three separate alien societies have claims on Cavanagh's Star. But the new arrivals -- the gethes from Earth -- now threaten the tenuous balance of a coveted world.

Environmental Hazard Enforcement officer Shan Frankland agreed to lead a mission to Cavanagh's Star, knowing that 150 years would elapse before she could finally return home. But her landing, with a small group of scientists and Marines, has not gone unnoticed by Aras, the planet's designated guardian. An eternally evolving world himself, this sad, powerful being has already obliterated millions of alien interlopers and their great cities to protect the fragile native population. Now Shan and her party -- plus the small colony of fundamentalist humans who preceded them -- could face a similar annihilation... or a fate far worse. Because Aras possesses a secret of the blood that would be disastrous if it fell into human hands -- if the gethes survive the impending war their coming has inadvertently hastened.

The Martian Chronicles

Ray Bradbury

Leaving behind a world on the brink of destruction, man came to the Red planet and found the Martians waiting, dreamlike. Seeking the promise of a new beginning, man brought with him his oldest fears and his deepest desires. Man conquered Mars?and in that instant, Mars conquered him. The strange new world with its ancient, dying race and vast, red-gold deserts cast a spell on him, settled into his dreams, and changed him forever. Here are the captivating chronicles of man and Mars?the modern classic by the peerless Ray Bradbury.

Speaker for the Dead

Ender's Universe: Ender Wiggin: Book 2

Orson Scott Card

In the aftermath of his terrible war, Ender Wiggin disappeared, and a powerful voice arose: The Speaker for the Dead, who told the true story of the Bugger War.

Now, long years later, a second alien race has been discovered, but again the aliens' ways are strange and frightening... again, humans die. And it is only the Speaker for the Dead, who is also Ender Wiggin the Xenocide, who has the courage to confront the mystery... and the truth.

Downward to the Earth

Robert Silverberg

Gundersen returned to Holman's World seeking atonement for his harsh years as colonial governer. But now this lush, exotic planet of mystery was called by its ancient name of Belzagor, and it belonged once again to its native alien races, the nildoror and the sulidoror. Drawn by its spell, Gundersen began a harrowing pilgrimage to its mist-shrouded north, to witness a strange ritual rebirth that would alter him forever.

Precursor

Foreigner: Arc 2: Book 1

C. J. Cherryh

Over three years have passed since the reappearance of the starship Phoenix - the same ship which two centuries left an isolated colony of humans to fend for themselves on the world of the volatile atevi.

Since that time, humans have lived in exile on the island of Mospheira, using a single diplomat, the paidhi, to trade advanced technology for the continued peace and safety of its people.

But the unexpected return of the Phoenix has shattered forever the fragile, carefully maintained political balance of these two nearly incompatible races. For the captains of the Phoenix offer the atevi something Mospheira never could - access to the stars.

For three breakneck years the atevi labor to build a space shuttle which will bear their representatives to the Phoenix, to strengthen connections with their new human and retain their bid for control of their world. But as soon as the shuttle proves spaceworthy, the captains of the Phoenix suddenly recall their planetary delegates, breaking diplomatic contact and initiating a vicious bid for political dominance.

But the powerful head of the atevi's Western Association is not to be outmaneuvered, and he sends his own paidhi, Bren Cameron, into space to negotiate.

Thrust into a political maelstrom with almost no preparation, Bren is empowered to use any means at his disposal to achieve the atevi's aim. But can Bren gain control of the station and political supremacy for the atevi without sparking a three-sided interspecies war?

The Cloud Roads

Books of the Raksura: Book 1

Martha Wells

Moon has spent his life hiding what he is - a shape-shifter able to transform himself into a winged creature of flight. An orphan with only vague memories of his own kind, Moon tries to fit in among the tribes of his river valley, with mixed success. Just as Moon is once again cast out by his adopted tribe, he discovers a shape-shifter like himself... someone who seems to know exactly what he is, who promises that Moon will be welcomed into his community. What this stranger doesn't tell Moon is that his presence will tip the balance of power... that his extraordinary lineage is crucial to the colony's survival... and that his people face extinction at the hands of the dreaded Fell! Now Moon must overcome a lifetime of conditioning in order to save himself... and his newfound kin.

The Word for World is Forest

Hainish Cycle: Book 6

Ursula K. Le Guin

When the inhabitants of a peaceful world are conquered by the bloodthirsty yumens, their existence is irrevocably altered. Forced into servitude, the Athsheans find themselves at the mercy of their brutal masters.

Desperation causes the Athsheans, led by Selver, to retaliate against their captors, abandoning their strictures against violence. But in defending their lives, they have endangered the very foundations of their society. For every blow against the invaders is a blow to the humanity of the Athsheans. And once the killing starts, there is no turning back.

Remnant Population

Elizabeth Moon

For forty years, Colony 3245.12 has been Ofelia's home. On this planet far away in space and time from the world of her youth, she has lived and loved, weathered the death of her husband, raised her one surviving child, lovingly tended her garden, and grown placidly old. And it is here that she fully expects to finish out her days--until the shifting corporate fortunes of the Sims Bancorp Company dictates that Colony 3245.12 is to be disbanded, its residents shipped off, deep in cryo-sleep, to somewhere new and strange and not of their choosing. But while her fellow colonists grudgingly anticipate a difficult readjustment on some distant world, Ofelia savors the promise of a golden opportunity. Not starting over in the hurly-burly of a new community... but closing out her life in blissful solitude, in the place she has no intention of leaving. A population of one.

With everything she needs to sustain her, and her independent spirit to buoy her, Ofelia actually does start life over--for the first time on her own terms: free of the demands, the judgments, and the petty tyrannies of others. But when a reconnaissance ship returns to her idyllic domain, and its crew is mysteriously slaughtered, Ofelia realizes she is not the sole inhabitant of her paradise after all. And, when the inevitable time of first contact finally arrives, she will find her life changed yet again–in ways she could never have imagined....

Planetfall

Planetfall: Book 1

Emma Newman

From Emma Newman, the award-nominated author of Between Two Thorns, comes a novel of how one secret withheld to protect humanity's future might be its undoing...

Renata Ghali believed in Lee Suh-Mi's vision of a world far beyond Earth, calling to humanity. A planet promising to reveal the truth about our place in the cosmos, untainted by overpopulation, pollution, and war. Ren believed in that vision enough to give up everything to follow Suh-Mi into the unknown.

More than twenty-two years have passed since Ren and the rest of the faithful braved the starry abyss and established a colony at the base of an enigmatic alien structure where Suh-Mi has since resided, alone. All that time, Ren has worked hard as the colony's 3-D printer engineer, creating the tools necessary for human survival in an alien environment, and harboring a devastating secret.

Ren continues to perpetuate the lie forming the foundation of the colony for the good of her fellow colonists, despite the personal cost. Then a stranger appears, far too young to have been part of the first planetfall, a man who bears a remarkable resemblance to Suh-Mi.

The truth Ren has concealed since planetfall can no longer be hidden. And its revelation might tear the colony apart...

Alien Influences

Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Bountiful is a sun-scorched, inhospitable planet, offering only one comfort to its small band of human colonists: the powerful intoxicant they create from native plants an export to other worlds. But an unspeakable disaster devastates the colony. Six of its children are found dead, their bodies marked in a bizarre parody of the puberty rites of the Dancers, Bountiful's enigmatic sentient race. Even more horrifying is the news that the murderers are not the Dancers -- but eight other children of the colony.

What happens when small children are changed by their environment, made into something other, not wholly human or alien? What will become of a society irrevocably torn by nightmarish acts carried out by its most innocent members? And how far will one young man go in his obsessive quest to bring healing to eight shattered children... even if he must cross the boundaries of death itself?

Embassytown

China Miéville

China Miéville doesn't follow trends, he sets them. Relentlessly pushing his own boundaries as a writer-and in the process expanding the boundaries of the entire field-with Embassytown, Miéville has crafted an extraordinary novel that is not only a moving personal drama but a gripping adventure of alien contact and war.

In the far future, humans have colonized a distant planet, home to the enigmatic Ariekei, sentient beings famed for a language unique in the universe, one that only a few altered human ambassadors can speak.

Avice Benner Cho, a human colonist, has returned to Embassytown after years of deep-space adventure. She cannot speak the Ariekei tongue, but she is an indelible part of it, having long ago been made a figure of speech, a living simile in their language.

When distant political machinations deliver a new ambassador to Arieka, the fragile equilibrium between humans and aliens is violently upset. Catastrophe looms, and Avice is torn between competing loyalties-to a husband she no longer loves, to a system she no longer trusts, and to her place in a language she cannot speak yet speaks through her.

Little Fuzzy

Fuzzy Series: Book 1

H. Beam Piper

When the Zarathustra Company takes over a supposedly uninhabited planet, reaping it for all that it is worth, Jack Holloway, a sunstone prospector, and his family of Fuzzies are determined to save this world from utter destruction.

War Dogs

War Dogs: Book 1

Greg Bear

The Gurus came in peace, bearing gifts.

They were a highly advanced, interstellar species who brought amazingly useful and sophisticated technology to the human race. There was, of course, a catch. The Gurus warned of a far more malevolent life form, beings who have hounded the Gurus from sun to sun, planet to planet, across the cosmos. Pundits have taken to calling them the Antagonists - or Antags - and they have already established a beachhead on Mars. In exchange for all they've done for us, the Gurus would now like our help.

Enter Master Sergeant Michael Venn, a veteran Skyrine (a Marine who is specially trained for off-world combat) who is dropped onto the Red Planet with his band of brothers on a mission to take down as many Antags as possible.

But from the moment they're dropped through the thin Martian atmosphere, their mission goes horribly, terribly wrong. From a group of female special ops Skyrines with secret orders, to mysterious humans who've settled on Mars, to the overwhelming and highly-reinforced Antags themselves, Venn and his brothers will face impossible odds just to survive - let alone make it home alive.

Emissaries from the Dead

Andrea Cort: Book 1

Adam-Troy Castro

Two murders have occurred on One One One, an artificial ecosystem created by the universe's dominant AIs to house several engineered species, including a violent, sentient race of sloth-like creatures. Under order from the Diplomatic Corps, Counselor Andrea Cort has come to this cylinder world where an indentured human community hangs suspended high above a poisoned, acid atmosphere. Her assignment is to choose a suitable homicide suspect from among those who have sold their futures to escape existences even worse than this one. And no matter where the trail leads her she must do nothing to implicate the hosts, who hold the power to obliterate humankind in an instant.

But Andrea Cort is not about to hold back in her hunt for a killer. For she has nothing to lose and harbors no love for her masters or fellow indentures. And she herself has felt the terrible exhilaration of taking life....

Cold Welcome

Vatta's Peace: Book 1

Elizabeth Moon

Summoned to the home planet of her family's business empire, space-fleet commander Kylara Vatta is told to expect a hero's welcome. But instead she is thrown into danger unlike any other she has faced and finds herself isolated, unable to communicate with the outside world, commanding a motley group of unfamiliar troops, and struggling day by day to survive in a deadly environment with sabotaged gear. Only her undeniable talent for command can give her ragtag band a fighting chance.

Yet even as Ky leads her team from one crisis to another, her family and friends refuse to give up hope, endeavoring to mount a rescue from halfway around the planet -- a task that is complicated as Ky and her supporters find secrets others will kill to protect: a conspiracy infecting both government and military that threatens not only her own group's survival but her entire home planet.

A Darkling Sea

James L. Cambias

On the planet Ilmatar, under a roof of ice a kilometer thick, a team of deep-sea diving scientists investigates the blind alien race that lives below. The Terran explorers have made an uneasy truce with the Sholen, their first extraterrestrial contact: so long as they don't disturb the Ilmataran habitat, they're free to conduct their missions in peace.

But when Henri Kerlerec, media personality and reckless adventurer, ends up sliced open by curious Ilmatarans, tensions between Terran and Sholen erupt, leading to a diplomatic disaster that threatens to escalate to war.

Against the backdrop of deep-sea guerrilla conflict, a new age of human exploration begins as alien cultures collide. Both sides seek the aid of the newly enlightened Ilmatarans. But what this struggle means for the natives--and the future of human exploration--is anything but certain.

Orbitsville

Orbitsville: Book 1

Bob Shaw

Fleeing Elizabeth Lindstrom's anger at the death of her son, Vance Garamond, a flickerwing commander, leaves the solar system far behind. Pursued by Earth's space fleet, Garamond finds a vast, alien-built spherical structure which might just change the destiny of the human race.

The Wrong Stars

The Axiom: Book 1

Tim Pratt

The shady crew of the White Raven run freight and salvage at the fringes of our solar system. They discover the wreck of a centuries-old exploration vessel floating light years away from its intended destination and revive its sole occupant, who wakes with news of First Alien Contact. When the crew break it to her that humanity has alien allies already, she reveals that these are very different extra-terrestrials... and the gifts they bestowed on her could kill all humanity, or take it out to the most distant stars.

Learning the World

Ken MacLeod

Humanity has spread to every star within 500 light-years of its half-forgotten origin, coloring the sky with a haze of habitats. Societies rise and fall. Incautious experiments burn fast and fade. On the fringes, less modified humans get on with the job of settling a universe that has, so far, been empty of intelligent life.

The ancient starship But the Sky, My Lady! The Sky! is entering orbit around a promising new system after a four hundred year journey. For its long-lived inhabitants, the centuries have been busy. Now a younger generation is eager to settle the system. The ship is a seed-pod ready to burst.

Then they detect curious electromagnetic emissions from the system's Earth-like world. As the nature of the signals becomes clear, the choices facing the humans become stark.

On Ground, second world from the sun, a young astronomer searches for his system's outermost planet. A moving point of light thrills, then disappoints him. It's only a comet. His physicist colleague Orro takes time off from trying to invent a flying-machine to calculate the comet's trajectory. Something is very odd about that comet's path.

They are not the only ones for whom the world has changed.

"We are not living in the universe we thought we lived in yesterday. We have to start learning the world all over again."

Jem: The Making of a Utopia

Frederik Pohl

The discovery of another habitable world might spell salvation to the three bitterly competing power blocs of the resource-starved 21st century; but when their representatives arrive on Jem, with its multiple intelligent species, they discover instead the perfect situation into which to export their rivalries. Subtitled, with savage irony, 'The Making of a Utopia', Jem is one of Frederik Pohl's most powerful novels.

Forty Thousand in Gehenna

Alliance-Union: Unionside: Book 1

C. J. Cherryh

When forty thousand human colonists are abandoned for political reasons on a planet called Gehenna, and re-supply ships fail to arrive, collapse seems imminent. Yet over the next two centuries, the descendants of the original colonists survive despite all odds by entering a partnership with the planet’s native intelligence – the lizard-like, burrowing calibans.

Marsbound

Marsbound Trilogy: Book 1

Joe Haldeman

Young Carmen Dula and her family are about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime - they're going to Mars.

Once on the Red Planet, however, Carmen realizes things are not so different from Earth. There are chores to do, lessons to learn, and oppressive authority figures to rebel against. And when she ventures out into the bleak Mars landscape alone one night, a simple accident leads her to the edge of death until she is saved by an angel—an angel with too many arms and legs, a head that looks like a potato gone bad, and a message for the newly arrived human inhabitants of Mars:

We were here first.

The Vital Abyss

The Expanse: Short Fiction: Book 5

James S. A. Corey

Somewhere in the vast expanse of space, a group of prisoners lives in permanent captivity.

The only company they have is each other and the Belters who guard them. The only stories they know are the triumphs and crimes that brought them there. The only future they see is an empty life in an enormous room.

And then the man from Mars came along...

Foreigner

Foreigner: Arc 1: Book 1

C. J. Cherryh

It had been nearly five centuries since the starship Phoenix, lost in space and desperately searching for the nearest G5 star, had encountered the planet of the atevi. On this alien world, law was kept by the use of registered assassination, alliances were defined by individual loyalties not geographical borders, and war became inevitable once humans and one faction of atevi established a working relationship. It was a war that humans had no chance of winning on this planet so many light-years from home.

Now, nearly two hundred years after that conflict, humanity has traded its advanced technology for peace and an island refuge that no atevi will ever visit. Then the sole human the treaty allows into atevi society is marked for an assassin's bullet. The work of an isolated lunatic? ... The interests of a particular faction? ... Or the consequence of one human's fondness for a species which has fourteen words for betrayal and not a single word for love?

The Dragon Masters / The Last Castle

Ace Double Numbered Series: Book 16641

Jack Vance

The Dragon Masters

Men have been at war for centuries with the reptilian race called "Basics." As conquerors always have, the winners of each bloody encounter have made slaves of the losers--but in this far-future war, each side has improved upon its slaves with genetic engineering.

And so at last there came to be two neighboring worlds: Aerlith, where men have raised a race of fearsome dragons to be their servants, and nearby Coralyne, where the descendants of those very dragons are served by strong, savage mutants who once were human. Inevitably, those two worlds would meet in one final contest...

The Last Castle

For 700 years the Meks served without complaint; they were indispensable, for no gentleman would demean himself with toil. But now they turn against the strongholds of civilization--Castle Halcyon, then Sea Island, Morninglight, and Maraval--one by one the proud castles of Earth fall; last standing is Castle Hagedorn.

Nemesis

Isaac Asimov

In the twenty-third century pioneers have escaped the crowded earth for life in self-sustaining orbital colonies. One of the colonies, Rotor, has broken away from the solar system to create its own renegade utopia around an unknown red star two light-years from Earth: a star named Nemesis. Now a fifteen-year-old Rotorian girl has learned of the dire threat that nemesis poses to Earth's people--but she is prevented from warning them. Soon she will realize that Nemesis endangers Rotor as well. And so it will be up to her alone to save both Earth and Rotor as--drawn inexorably by Nemesis, the death star--they hurtle toward certain disaster.

The Book of Strange New Things

Michel Faber

Peter - devoted pastor, dedicated missionary, and loving husband to his wife, Bea - has just accepted a demanding and perilous new job. He's to travel to a new planet, Oasis, to work for a mysterious corporation called USIC. He's tasked with reaching out to the indigenous race, to make sure they are as peaceful as they seem. Resolutely devout and strengthened by his letters from Bea at home, Peter undertakes his job with complete focus. The Oasans are shockingly open to his teachings, but things start to unravel when Bea's missives from Earth take a dark tone. Earth appears to be coming apart at the seams: typhoons and earthquakes are devastating whole countries and governments are crumbling. Even the hospital where she works has ceased to function. Their unearthly divide is testing Peter and Bea's relationship to a startlingly degree. Peter is thrown into crisis. USIC might be hiding its true motives in developing Oasis, and the Oasans themselves are frustratingly opaque. Bea's desperate letters are only fomenting his doubt. Peter is suddenly faced with an impossible-and dangerous-decision: to follow his faith, or follow his heart. His life depends on it.

The City in the Middle of the Night

Charlie Jane Anders

If you control our sleep, then you can own our dreams... And from there, it's easy to control our entire lives.

January is a dying planet--divided between a permanently frozen darkness on one side, and blazing endless sunshine on the other. Humanity clings to life, spread across two archaic cities built in the sliver of habitable dusk.

But life inside the cities is just as dangerous as the uninhabitable wastelands outside.

Sophie, a student and reluctant revolutionary, is supposed to be dead, after being exiled into the night. Saved only by forming an unusual bond with the enigmatic beasts who roam the ice, Sophie vows to stay hidden from the world, hoping she can heal.

But fate has other plans--and Sophie's ensuing odyssey and the ragtag family she finds will change the entire world.

Carnival

Elizabeth Bear

In Old Earths clandestine world of ambassador-spies, Michelangelo Kusanagi-Jones and Vincent Katherinessen were once a starring team. But ever since a disastrous mission, they have been living separate lives in a universe dominated by a ruthless Coalition one that is about to reunite them.

The pair are dispatched to New Amazonia as diplomatic agents. Allegedly, they are to return priceless art. Covertly, they seek to tap its energy supply. But in reality, one has his mind set on treason. And among the extraordinary women of New Amazonia, in a season of festival, betrayal, and disguise, he will find a new ally and a force beyond any that humans have known.

Something Coming Through

Jackaroo: Book 1

Paul J. McAuley

The aliens are here. And they want to help. The extraordinary new project from one of the country's most acclaimed and consistently brilliant SF novelists of the last 30 years.

The Jackaroo have given humanity 15 worlds and the means to reach them. They're a chance to start over, but they're also littered with ruins and artifacts left by the Jackaroo's previous clients.

Miracles that could reverse the damage caused by war, climate change, and rising sea levels. Nightmares that could for ever alter humanity - or even destroy it.

Chloe Millar works in London, mapping changes caused by imported scraps of alien technology. When she stumbles across a pair of orphaned kids possessed by an ancient ghost, she must decide whether to help them or to hand them over to the authorities. Authorities who believe that their visions point towards a new kind of danger.

And on one of the Jackaroo's gift-worlds, the murder of a man who has just arrived from Earth leads policeman Vic Gayle to a war between rival gangs over possession of a remote excavation site.

Something is coming through. Something linked to the visions of Chloe's orphans, and Vic Gayle's murder investigation. Something that will challenge the limits of the Jackaroo's benevolence...