Don’t be fooled. From its setting on Precursor—a barren planet where everything that grows is toxic to human life, and where people are enslaved by a corrupt alliance of corporate and religious interests—Mistress of Molecules might seem like the kind of machine-laden, hard science fiction that is strong on technical descriptions and weak on human interest. But human interest is what drives this engaging, action-driven novel in which chemistry—both the scientific and the romantic kind—plays an important part. Weinberg, who has made a career writing nonfiction that sheds insight into our relationships with technology, infuses this book with astute, often witty, and sometimes profound observations on the nature of societies, religion, freedom, and terrorism. The book also brims with intriguing scientific ideas and speculations. But what keeps the pages turning are the stories of Andre and Libra, two gifted, troubled souls, who, in seeking to shape a better life for the inhabitants of Precursor,find their own happiness as well.