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This unwieldy debut from former Alabama state senator Drinkard introduces a low-tech world where human reproduction is controlled to concentrate desirable traits. Life is regulated by the scriptures of Geerna, a primitive human who long ago reached a covenant with the goddess Shetow. The wise women of the Medora Council interpret Geerna's words and protect her secret prophecies, overseeing the competitions where adolescents demonstrate their skills and suitability for mating. Occasionally indulging in too-chunky exposition, Drinkard unfolds a world more complicated than it first appears. Seven young men and women, chosen to represent humanity when Shetow passes judgment, soon learn their goddess is not at all what she seemed. Shifting romantic entanglements, team dynamics and personal growth keep the human level interesting despite revelations in which the characters are largely passive, but the eventual pairing off is too pat, and the conclusion ducks the moral questions raised by such social engineering. (Mar.)

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