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Black on Black Mass Market Paperback – January 1, 1999
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The difference in BLACK ON BLACK is that the humans and flek play a secondary role in the story. The book is primarily about Blackeagle and the hrinn, and is told mostly from their point of view. Telling a story convincingly from an alien point of view is a trick that's not easy to pull off, but Wentworth does a nice job of it here. She makes Blackeagle, with all of his doubts and confusion, and the native hrinn, with their alien customs and habits, seem both believable and sympathetic.
BLACK ON BLACK is a notch above ordinary space opera. Wentworth tells her story from an unusual point of view and tells it well. I'm looking forward to the sequel. If you like science fiction, I think you'll enjoy this. I did.
The intense descriptions of the Hrinn culture with its varied characters and unique mythos create an extensive and realistic stage in our imaginations upon which the drama is played out.
As I read on, I found myself staying up later and later each night until the truly thrilling and satisfying conclusion that left me with much to ponder.
My objections to this book are to the author's repetitive dwelling on certain certain aspects such as the pain associated with Heyoka's leg wound, how difficult and important it is for him to control his claws, how vile certain things smell, that become somewhat tedious and tend to break the spell. I also feel that Heyoka's partner, Mitsu, was largely extraneous; more of a problem than a strong contributor to the quality of the tale, as were curious personal features such as his double thumbs and double rows of teeth.
All in all, however, it was a very interesting exploration of some possible alien cultures, and a satisfying story of self-realization.
But first and foremost it is about the main character Heyoka, who seeks to find out more about his world, his kind, and himself. The changes in him through his experiences and adventures make for some enjoyable and exciting reading.
But, the flek, extreme aliens, at war with humanity and few direct contacts (apparently) that can condition humans in a couple of days by hitting them with a beam? A "conditioned" human, who regards himself as a flek, managing to be director of an isolated human post?
I started turning pages hoping it would end. And it did: "Well, son, don't say you're going to turn me down." And human and hrinn lived together in harmony and mutual cooperation against the flek .....
The Hrinn culture the book spends most of its time inside is well-defined; focused around patterns and tribes, male business and female business. Just as importantly, it's not simply used to play against type or ignored (such as with Star Trek's often dishonourable "honourable warrior" Klingons). The patterns-in-progress idea - the view by the Hrinn that events fall into patterns, and that one should find the pattern and their place in it, then follow it - is nice and distinctive one.
Blackeagle is slightly passive at times in dealing with the culture, but the frequently jumping viewpoint (following a number of native Hrinn, among others) keeps the pace moving and fleshes things out. Wentworth's action sequences are stop-and-start affairs, as much because of the nature of the Hrinn as anything else. They still move nicely, and don't lose the tension built up through the book. "Black on Black" is a good science-fiction read with a good alien culture.