Beyond the Gates by Catherine Wells (1999)

BeyondtheGates1Cover blurb

Few native species exist on the sand-whipped world of Dray’s Planet, home of the Children of the Second Revelation. And few people know about the ones that do live there. For the Children have cut themselves off from the rest of the galaxy for fear of their religion becoming “contaminated” by Unbelievers

But when a graduate student named Marta discovers a strange creature that cannot be classified, two rival scientists – both Unbelievers – are brought onto Dray’s Planet to help identify it. Defying her religious beliefs, Marta guides them to the forbidden continent of her homeworld to determine the creature’s origins. But soon, the scientist ruthless quest for personal glory traps Marta in a race not only to discover the truth, but to escape with it – alive..

My thoughts

Beyond the Gates is a moderately successful novel but not a memorable one. Marta – the heroine of the novel – has grown up in religiously conservative culture that apparently evolved from Islam. She’s a student who has found the remains of a creature on her desert planet that looks suspiciously like a dinosaur, so she calls for help from outsider scientists to learn its origin. Two rival scientists answer the call and, eventually, all three come to the realization that the answers they seek will only be found by mounting an expedition to a mysterious continent that Marta’s people have prohibited anyone from visiting.

What makes Beyond the Gates work is its central mystery, but I soon grew tired of the all-too-familiar plot about cultural conflict that really didn’t have anything new to add to the issue. The book plods along then suddenly hits a brick wall of an ending, which wraps up everything a bit too quickly, especially since the most interesting plot twist is revealed in the last 30 or so pages. This novel isn’t a complete waste of your time, but it’s one that will appeal to science fiction fans more interested in Star Trek than paleontology.

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