HUNTER'S RUN, by George R.R. Martin, Gardner Dozois and Daniel Abraham, HarperCollins, $25.95.

One is a chart-busting, best-selling fantasy author, one is an editor of great renown and the third is a recently published writer. Together, the trio has written a new science-fiction novel that is a compelling bit of fiction that also addresses social, moral and scientific issues.

"Hunter's Run" takes place when humans have reached out to the stars and colonized a few planets. They have become far-flung outposts with a frontier feel, similar to the Wild West of the 1800s on Earth.

Humans soon find they aren't alone in the universe and a network of intelligent space travelers exists, including some willing to help them colonize other planets. Barely scraping out a living on one outpost is Ramon Espejo, a functioning alcoholic who escaped an orphan's hardscrabble life in the shanty towns of Mexico City.

He fights with his on-again, off-again girlfriend, drinks too much and keeps himself financially solvent with occasional mining runs around the uncharted but mineral-rich spots by his planetary home.

He is a mean cuss who uses racially charged language. Sensitive readers be warned.

After a nasty bar fight, Ramon flees to unexplored wilderness to search for minerals and to lie low while the heat on him dissipates.

While on this expedition in an alien environment beyond human reach, Ramon makes a discovery that places him in peril and changes the way he views reality. As Ramon faces great duress in the wilderness, the rip-roaring adventure of survival shifts into a real page turner. The writers tell a story and also invite readers to think about larger issues, including the big questions about what it means to be human.

The story is never sacrificed to servicing the greater themes. Instead, the deeper meanings in the tale spring organically from the events of the fast-moving adventure that presents ethical dilemmas for protagonist and reader alike. Those wishing for a full-throttle survival story will certainly find it.

The authors have delivered a rich and fulfilling story that is among the best of its genre. It demonstrates that in the right hands the often derided "sci-fi" can simply be literature.

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