SPOILERS!!LEAVE!!SPOILERS!!YOU SHOULDN'T BE HERE ANYWAY!!SPOILERS!!SPOILERS!!LEAVE!!
Friend or foe to mankind? Well, she's not a genie or a djinni, that's for sure. She serves no human; we serve her. If Goethe's Faust(1) had bargained with a Goddess instead of Mephistopheles for his soul, God would never have interfered in favor of her quarry. But what if Goddesses are actual creatures? What if they have been contained—subdued, if you will—into various prisons around the universe by our pre-history ancestors or even space-travelling aliens? And, finding one, what would it take to turn down the prize of immortality she offers? And all just for a ride in a spaceship to a lively, inquisitive planet?
A scientific team has landed on an unnamed, "desert ice planet" that is so tilted from its sun it experiences 6-month, Arctic-like blackovers where the team's station is located. "They were here to find reasons to exploit it, this bright, sharp, beautiful place"(p.29). They have all the expedition goodies like portable buildings, hovercrafts and sleds to get around, machines to deal with ice and severe weather, etc. They have been there long enough to establish a sturdy base but have not found anything of particular value, until now.
Did I mention that it's fookin' cold, very cold, and darkness is only 2 days away—everybody pretty much takes hiatus to a warmer, circulating space freighter—and then—when the storms come—it'll get even colder.
Our protagonist is Muir, an explorer herself, who pilots a winged Otter aboveground. She frequently wanders beyond her perimeters looking for something, anything. On this day, she skims across an artifact below the ice that is 18 meters tall and looking suggestively anthropomorphic. But, "it wasn't in the ice. It was of the ice"(p.13).
Earlier,when the crew was "riding the adrenalin wave"(p.34), they kick around promotional ideas to sell the disinterred mermaid to their superiors. Research, or donate her to a museum. But more entrepreneurial, as a religious tourist attraction. They were on the right track, yet their thinking was hopelessly naive and shamefully capitalistic. Later, Muir begins the formulation for final outcome when she says, "maybe she was dumped here on purpose. . . Maybe she's a Trojan horse"(p.63). Closer, but the prized cigar is absorbed in futility when only 4 out of 28 make it off that frozen, planetary-sized grave. Now, the speculation becomes metaphysical when Muir decides what is the truth, or at least some way toward practical action. "I think she's the first Goddess. . . the Goddess of everything. The Goddess of Goddesses"(p.88).
So now she's riding in a freighter bound for Earth next to the survivors' spaceship. Once Muir made a ruinous decision that changed everything in her life. She ran over a little girl in her delivery truck. Sentenced for manslaughter, she was doing jail time on this miserable expedition. "I made a decision, is all. . . Make her die. . . So I could have my bonus"(p.96). Presently, true retribution is within her frostbitten fingers. and it will necessitate the ultimate sacrifice.
1) Personally, I prefer the earlier workings of this legend—Christopher Marlowe's The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus of 1588—where his soul is damned to hell and body parts strewn around the room.