Karen Saber is an expert xenolinguist with a very shady past, currently engaged in a blood feud to avenge her murdered mentor, when her world is turned upside-down by a strange message. When she finally decodes it, a shocking genocidal conspiracy is revealed, and she has to work with the very people she has vowed to kill, in order to save an alien race.
It makes such a refreshing change to read a story without intrusive expository lumps and gobs of background description to slow the flow. There is plenty of back-story here, but it is uncovered crumb by crumb, or left implicit, in a way that only adds to the tension. And the technique of writing in the present tense, which I found mildly distracting at first, works well to emphasise how Karen is dislocated from her past self, and is living very much in the present.
Karen is an interesting protagonist. Her straightforward blood feud is thrown into disarray as she fights to save the Xians, a task that she feels at best only partially competent to perform. Her dismay and discomfort as she is forced to work with the very people who murdered her mentor, in order to achieve a greater good, is well drawn. And all the characters are complex -- Karen and her colleagues may all have done bad things, but they are also trying to do their best by the Xians, and the Xians themselves aren't entirely saints.
The mystery of the Xians' communication is fairly obvious to anyone who reads SF, but the story is very well told and certainly sucked me along. [I started reading part way through a flight, surfaced briefly as we bumped down onto the runway, but only really noticed my surroundings again when the other passengers began taking off their seatbelts and standing up to disembark!] The three alien races are well-drawn: each have their different distinguishing characteristics, yet the individuals of each race are also believably diverse in behaviour and motivation. And after so many SFnal felinoids, it is interesting to have a race of intelligent gerbil-like creatures.
Smokey is the best whore on the planet Arizona, making extra money from the secrets she learns from her clients using her hidden telepathy. Everything is fine until the day she senses an alien presence in the mind of her latest client. The next thing she knows, she and her daughter are fleeing for their lives, and end up with the Underground, a hidden force of psionics fighting the alien invaders. As she joins the fight, she gradually learns to come to terms with her past. But it is her daughter who might hold the key to their victory.
A decent page turner, and some good world building, but there are too many coincidences driving the plot, too many loose ends, and the final resolution is a little too easy.
Feisty American Jenny Benet, recently orphaned, arrives in Victorian England to stay with her Uncle Neville, only to discover he is about to embark on an archeological trip to Egypt, to uncover a secret burial site he was forced to abandon many years earlier. She persuades him to take her along. Even before they reach Egypt, mysterious happenings occur, warning them off their chosen path, and once there, things take a more sinister turn. But it isn't until they find the ancient burial ground that things start getting really weird.
And things don't start getting weird (that is, SFnal) until page 384, when they do so extremely rapidly. Up until then, this can be read as a real world archaeological adventure story, with an excellent feeling of place and time. After then, it is wonderfully fantastical. And that sudden change feels a bit peculiar.
But it's all well written, and a good page turner (even before it gets weird!) -- my slightly low rating is due simply to the long wait for the fantastic, which then lasts for the remaining scant 114 pages.
But the Empire was shattered in a horrific war; centuries later humanity has lost much of the advanced technology, and Artemis is a fable told to children. Until young archaeologist Griffin Dane finds hints that send him on a quest to find the lost world.
After crashing his ship, he encounters Adara the Huntress and her psych-linked companion, the puma Sand Shadow. Their journey will lead Dane to discover the planet’s secrets… and perhaps provide a key to give unimagined power back to mankind.
After a disaster destroyed her home when she was small, Firekeeper has been raised by the Royal Wolves in the northern forests, and considers herself a member of the pack. But when a party from the south comes searching for the lost settlement, the pack decides she should contact them. The party is looking for a lost royal heir, and Firekeeper, accompanied by her friends, the wolf Blind Seer and the falcon Elation, soon finds herself enmeshed in human politics.
As Firekeeper learns to become human, we get to see the culture clash, both from her point of view, and from the humans'. There is a curious lack of tension, because the reader learns very early on that Firekeeper is not the heir, and so we know the actual heir will be one of the rest of the cast of characters -- we know this is not a classic "Lost Princess" story. The political wranglings have many unexpected turns, many of the characters develop in unexpected ways, and there is good closure to this first part of story. But we also learn there are much deeper things to come, as the humans will one day have to come to terms with the intelligent northern wolves, so there are lots of threads to lead into the sequel.
Fire weather ... That’s what the treecats call those rare seasons when the slightest spark can set aflame the the vast green reaches they call home.
Teenager Stephanie Harrington rapidly learns just how deadly those fires can be. Guided by her treecat companion, Lionheart, Stephanie and her good friend Kari Zivonik venture into the heart of a raging inferno to rescue twin treecats put at risk by human carelessness. Only the trio’s absolute trust for each other stands between them and disaster.
But Sphinx isn’t the only thing ripe for burning. Stephanie has fallen hard for new arrival to Sphinx, Anders Whittaker. When Anders vanishes without a trace, Stephanie is at the forefront of the search. Then a lightning strike sets the Copperwall Mountains aflame and as a provisional ranger she is ordered to her post.
Will Stephanie choose to honor the claims of her planet or those of her heart?
Stephanie Harrington has all the usual problems of growing up a lonely precocious teenager on a new colonised planet, but added to that, she has made first contact with a sentient alien species: the treecats. Not everyone wants treecats to be classified as sentient, however. So there is a new team of xeno-anthropologists on Sphinx to investigate to ’cats. When the team goes missing, the search is on – except that a local firestorm disrupts everyone’s plans.
More fun with treecats, as Stephanie and friends help them out when their forest burns. We also get to see her becoming more socialised with her age mates (or some of them, at least). But we’re reading this for the ’cats, right? And there are lots of good treecat scenes here.
The fires from fire season are out, but the trouble’s just beginning for the treecats.
On pioneer planet Sphinx, ruined lands and the approach of winter force the treecats of the now Landless Clan to seek new territory. They have one big problem—there’s nowhere to go. Worse, their efforts to find a new home awaken the enmity of their neighbors—a clan who’s not giving up a single branch without a fight.
Worse still, Stephanie Harrington, the treecats’ greatest advocate, is not even on the planet. She and Lionheart are off to Manticore for extensive training—and up to their ears in challenges of their own there.
Can Jessica, Anders, and the rest left behind find a way to save the treecats from themselves? Can they do it without exposing the treecats’ problems to the attention of a newly arrived group of xenoanthropologists, a group whose agenda may not be as benign as it seems?