Review: Rift in the Sky, by Julie E Czerneda

This is the third and concluding Stratification book, telling the story about Aryl Sarc but also about how the Clan ended up in space, in the position and situation they occupy in the Trade Pact trilogy.

In books one and two we got to know Aryl and the people that surrounds her. In this book the imperative imposed on the author is they MUST get off Cersi, NOW. Accordingly that is what happens, and not at all in a way that is satisfactory to the reader.

No, I don’t say an author has to write feel-good stories. I’m saying sometimes the story, and the length of the story – the actual number of pages, forces the author to invent implausible plot devices. When the newly named M’hiray Clan arrives at Stonerim III, that is what happens. The removal of some of their memories, the shearing off of the connection with the O’mray, the cursory way the story is told. Not what I have come to expect from Czerneda.

While part one – Reap the wild Wind – felt like it was good on it’s own and with part two – Riders of the Storm – was well worth reading part three felt crippled, forced, by comparison. Maybe this is because I hadn’t read the Trade Pact trilogy first. I guess a lot of the more inexplicable things that happens has justification in those books, or maybe in the sequel Czerneda is planning. As I like her other books, this far, I’m willing to forgive her, to go on reading the rest of the Clan Chronicles. I would, however, not recommend this book on it’s own.
As a part of a greater story arc it is acceptable, though.

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Review: Riders of the Storm, by Julie E Czerneda

Some books are almost impossible to review. Riders of the Storm is one of those. While reading it (it’s book 2 of 3 in the Stratification Trilogy) I was immersed in the story but when my head popped out of the book, after the last word left my retina… I just don’t know what to think.

In the first book (Reap the Wild Wind) I felt grateful that she – Czerneda, author of these books – didn’t let her characters drown in needless romantic involvements. True, there were hints of possibilities, but nothing overt. This is also, partly, how this, the second book, starts.

Book one focuses on how change and evolution is inevitable, that not even the strictest rule/r can stop it from happen, and that knowledge – if not understanding – can be a facilitator for such change.

In this second instalment focus has shifted to look at consequences, what happens when you do things without understanding the larger context, but it’s also about taking responsibility and about society; what do a society need to sustain itself?
This is the main storyline, carried by the young woman Aryl Sarc.

The second storyline, or point of view, is that of Enris Mendolar. His use is to provide character depth and back story to some of the supporting cast, and to convey a wider, more complex, picture of the world than one person – Aryl – possibly can provide. This works well. Until the last handful of pages. I can forgive that, it’s a good read. But I think it was a bit too much, even given what happens is founded in the previous 800+ pages of the story. It’s also more romance than this books needs.

All in all a good read; I look forward to reading part three, whenever it arrives in my mailbox.
But be prepared for some truly deus ex machina moments, however consistent with the described world they may be. (Hint – on Star Trek they originally invented the ‘transporter’ so the cast could go places without spending TV time/production cost on being ferried around…)

Review: Reap the Wild Wind, by Julie E Czerneda

The Oud, the Tikitik and the Om’ray all live on the planet Cersi, three sentient species that share little beyond a common language and an Agreement stipulating the rules of co-existence.

The Yena Om’ray lead a marginalised and secluded life, deep in the Lay Swamp, when one Harvest is disturbed by a foreign thing exploding in the air, taking both Harvest and harvesters with it. When they fail to meet the expectations of the Tikitik, coming to take their share of the harvest that’s not there the world as Aryl Sarc knows it changes. Forever.

The journey thus begins…

Populated with strong characters this well paced story is the starting point of a tale longer and larger than this single volume. Without having read parts two and three of the Stratification trilogy I none the less recommend Reap the wild wind to anyone who has a thing for this kind of yarn.

Insanely great? Species Imperative trilogy, by Julie E Czerneda

Recently, as can be seen in the set of reviews I have posted here, I have read Julie E Czerneda’s Species Imperative trilogy. For some reason it blew me away. It was so intense, even when the story paused for a bit – I just HAD to read this chapter, and next, and next, and… It really is one tale chopped up into three physical tomes, and it felt almost impossible to write a separate review for each of them. Also, it felt hard to put it down after the last word was read.

What, then, was so great?

The plot as such is off-the-shelf science fiction – mysterious entity/species threatens all life; enter stage left, dark horse in the form of a scientist; everyone doubts but in the end scientist is vindicated; happy ending. Czerneda manages to take this truly unimaginative device and make something great of it, and it is her characters that do it. Dr.Connor – Mac – is mono-focussed bordering on obsessive; something that works both with and against her throughout the story. This makes her strong but with built-in weaknesses that makes her vulnerable and voilĂ  the danger of the too perfect hero is avoided.

Part of the charm is Mac’s interactions with other species. Prior to the happenings in this trilogy she has had no interest in anything outside her research field. While other humans travel the stars she has less than no idea of what people from other parts of the universe can be like. Because she looks at them all from the biologist’s point of view she wonders about the environments they evolved in and many of them soon switch from ‘alien’ to ‘person’, both to Mac and to the reader. I have no idea what, say, Fourteen looks like, despite Czerneda describing him, and in many ways it’s unimportant, just like skin colour is – in a multi-species universe personality and motive is what matters, nothing else.

And talking of motivations, Nik is another piece of work. A classical superhero – educated, intelligent, skilled in both diplomacy and killing – struggling with his feelings, sometimes getting it right and sometimes not. Despite this Czerneda manages to pull the stunt and make him believable. I still wonder how she did her trick. What did I miss?

Also there’s those small things that makes up the larger picture. The Dhryn don’t use water, at all, so of course Mac is threatened by dehydration while staying with them. And then there’s species that are allergic to other species, which makes perfect sense. The list could go on.

There are some flies in the soup, though. The first part (Survival) is riddled by infodumps; in the second part (Migration) the main character frequently talks to herself in the form of addressing her absent/abducted friend; and in the last part (Regeneration) sidekick Oversight harrumph one time too many.

These are minor issues, though. Because in the end Julie Czerneda has managed to write a 1500+ page story that is consistent in tone and attitude from the first page to the last, the while handling a “threat to all life” scenario in a way that makes it anything but derivative, daring the reader to become friends with the characters. And the ending? A Sinzi would be proud.

I have found a new favourite author.

Review: Regeneration, by Julie E Czerneda

I find it almost impossible to write a review of this last part of the Species Imperative trilogy – I have no idea how or where to start, properly. Regeneration is the brilliant conclusion to a brilliant story, but it is also impossible to understand it – and this review it – as a single book.

Every species try to find it’s way to survival. Sometimes that survival comes at the cost of the survival of other species. Will Dr. Mackenzie Connor and her team succeed in their valiant try to save not only Humanity but all other species that are part of the Interspecies Union from the threat of total annihilation? And which are the greater threat – the Dhryn or the Ro? Will politics, however well intended, conspire to the end of life in space?

This concluding part is in perfect harmony with the tone of the story leading up to it. Well conceived and executed the ending part of the trilogy is as much about finding a way to handle the threat to interplanetary survival as it is about how the species imperative works on humans, namely Dr. Connor and Agent Trojanowski, both in their relationship to each other and in how they handle a threat to their home world, and this is part of what makes this trilogy worth reading – grand theme, grand setting and repercussions on a personal level makes the reader care for the characters.

I highly recommend the Species Imperative trilogy, starting with Survival.
Well worth the time it takes reading the approximately 1500 pages.

Review: Migration, by Julie E Czerneda

After having identified what threatens the lifeforms of the Interspecies Union biologist Dr. Mackenzie Connor returns to her life as a salmon researcher. The return proves difficult, though. Meeting the alien has not only provided a larger frame of reference but has also resulted in vivid flashback nightmares and a feeling of inadequacy – she is worried that the people responsible for handling the threat are looking in the wrong direction, she also worries about her vanished colleague, Dr. Emily Mamani, but she is forbidden by the Ministry of Extra-Solar Affairs to reveal anything to anyone about the true reasons for her absence from work.

Unbeknownst to her others wants access to her and her insights and she ends up being part of a multi-species effort to find a way to tackle the combined Dhryn/Ro threat to life. This proves a challenge, as the team assigned to her is suspicious of her motives.

The characters are both fun and profound, most of them with his, her, its or their own motivations and quirks and the story itself a well paced and balanced mix between action and reflection.

While part 1 (Survival) can stand on it’s own Migration is very much dependent on it’s successor (Regeneration) to provide an ending. This is, however, not a problem, because the tale holds the reader in constant suspense, making it imperative ;-) to have the concluding part near at hand when finishing Migration.

I highly recommend the Species Imperative trilogy. Start with the first book, though, if you want to get things right.

Review: Survival, by Julie E Czerneda

Dr. Mackenzie Connor, Mac to those who know her, is a prime example of the mono-focused human; interested only in what can be related to her research, not having what other people chose to call ‘a normal life’; something which seems to be a conscious choice made so long ago it has become part of herself. The only person to come close to her is Emily, another scientist, and together they study salmon. Then one day a scientist from not only another world and of another species but another field altogether, chaperoned by what seemingly is a harmless papershuffler, a bureaucrat, intrudes on her in her field work, claiming Mac could hold the key to the survival of several species.

I have not read enough by Czerneda to know if this is a recurring theme but the story is not far away from that of In the Company of Others (my ‘review’ here) – alien species threatening the survival of the known world, female scientist solves the mystery while falling in love on the way. It’s a fun ride though so I can’t complain.

The characters are nicely done and the story is mostly well paced and despite a vague feeling of being a brew consisting of lots of well known elements Czerneda manages to make this dish have it’s own personal flavour.
If I had a problem with anything it was the frequent infodumps, especially at the beginning of the story. The style is supposed to be tight third person, which means we can only know what the protagonist know. But every now and then things she obviously know well enough not to react to are explained to us. An example: To Mac the tech called ‘imps’ should be ubiquitous – their use should be made clear to us by showing her using them. Instead we get a paragraph (or was it two?) describing the etymology behind the word, and what the thing is used for.
These dumps were not frequent enough to do more than annoy me slightly, though.

The book is first in a series of three called The Species Imperative but the essential parts of the story gets their resolution before the last page. Despite this I am ready to devour the next one (Migration), had I had it in my hand. Not because of any loose threads but because I want to know what will happen next – I’m not ready to abandon the scientifically minded Mac just yet.

Recommended.