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Transpecial Kindle Edition
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|Length: 231 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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That being said (because I want to be honest and forthright so people are not under the allusion that this may have been a paid for review) I wholeheartedly enjoyed the book. The first chapter or two took a bit for me to get into the rhythm with but after that it was pretty smooth (and fun) sailing. The idea that an alien species mere visage may on some almost genetic level of memory make communication difficult, if not feasibly impossible, is one plot element I can't really remember seeing before.
I felt that throughout the story this plot device was wonderfully handled and I loved that while humans (for the most part) thought of these creatures as monsters (though over time they accepted this was irrational) the aliens themselves were very human even with their different biological/physiological needs. Their having three genders was well managed in a very believable fashion. And for those who may thing that aliens must have complete alien thoughts I tend to disagree. Specifics may vary, but the abstract basics I have always felt would be somewhat similar.
The human characters were wonderfully, well, human. They all had wonderful depths and flaws. Even the main protagonist, a functional autistic, was easy of sympathize with. By which I mean I didn't feel forced to have an emotional reaction to her plight and her growth. The other humans all had their own very human problems which were not in any way, I felt, overdone.
The story unspooled and grew in a very organic fashion, some parts a bit better than others of course. One in a while it seemed that situations were strung out a little longer than required but this was really a very minor issue over all. As this was apparently one of her first published efforts I would say they went well beyond a level some could expect of a first time author and easily proved they definitely have what it takes to write captivating and enjoyably stories.
So, now how do I rate this book? Instead of using some arbitrary number rating scheme I will instead rate using five yes/no questions.
Did I enjoy the book? YES
Would I read more from this Author? YES
Would I recommend this book to friends? YES
Was it money well spent? YES.
Do I want a Sequel? YES
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.