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May 01

Transpecial

I mentioned last week the new novel by fellow author and friend Jennifer Povey.  Well, I finished reading it yesterday, and no surprise, I really enjoyed it.  If you’re at all a science fiction fan, you should absolutely pick it up.  I reviewed it on Amazon, but I’ll post it here as well…

“Transpecial” feels like an old-fashioned science fiction novel; it’s not about flashy technology and space battles (although it does feature both), instead Jennifer Povey is much more interested in grappling with some very difficult ideas in her debut novel.

It’s sometime in the late 21st century, and humanity has fairly recently gotten over an ugly war with its Mars colony that’s left Mars as an independent state. It’s also recently discovered faster-than-light travel, and begun sending out starships. One of those ships encounters an alien vessel – a race who call themselves the ky’iin. There’s an attempt at communication that goes horribly wrong – the ky’iin’s body language triggers a catastrophic fight-or-flight response in humans. The humans open fire on the ky’iin, leading inevitably to a war. Unfortunately for mankind, the ky’iin are more advanced technologically, and the war swiftly comes to our own solar system, where outposts and ships are destroyed with relative ease by the aliens.

Desperate for a way to talk to the aliens, humanity turns to the most unlikely diplomat. Suza McRae is a high-functioning autistic. She can’t instinctively read the body language or emotions of her fellow humans – but she doesn’t react instinctively to the ky’iin, making her the only person who can talk to them. Suza is teamed with linguist (and former soldier) Warren Taylor, who has personal demons of his own to face. At the same time, the ky’iin are seeking a way to bridge the gap themselves, and onboard their flagship is Haniyar, a negotiator who’s looking for a way to talk to the humans.

The book follows Suza, Warren and Haniyar as they struggle to find a way to communicate, before war turns into genocide.

We see glimpses of technology (the “webbed” brain-computer interfaces of some human officers; the singularity drives that allow FTL travel, etc.), but the book is ultimately about people, and how they fight to overcome their own instincts. The author delves into the ways that biology shapes our culture, and explores how differences in biology lead her aliens onto different paths (the alien ky’iin and their three genders; or Earth’s own dolphins, who in this world are recognized as sentient and equals to humans). At the same time, we see how, despite outward and in-born differences, there is always the possibility of finding common ground.

Transpecial is a well-written, enjoyable and thought-provoking book, well worth reading, and full of ideas the reader will wrestle with long after it’s finished.

The book’s for sale on Amazon as well – click here to find it!

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