The human characters are all ordinary people, types we can recognize from our own lives. I was impressed by Jasper’s crisp, vivid characterizations, his handling of action and emotional reaction. The contrast — aliens I felt were very alien, interacting with realistic, believable humans — kept me turning the pages. The tension winds tighter as sickness spreads through the Wannoshay and they strive to leave the planet. Who helps them, who tries to stop them, and why, brings on a cinematic climax.
Jasper published several parts of this novel as short stories. Four of these I read in his collection Gunning for the Buddha. I thought the Wannoshay stories standouts. Ordinarily these types of novels, with shorter work incorporated inside a larger work, are called fix-it novels. I tend to think of fix-it novels as discrete short pieces linked by a little transitional text, but here Jasper has deeply reworked the stories to interweave all these stories into one complex, fully integrated novel. The result is an absorbing work full of unflinching looks at what makes us human, how we might react to be faced with the truly incomprehensible.
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As I’ve said before, there’s probably nothing as rewarding as hearing other people talk about your work in a way that you know they really appreciated what you were trying to do, and why you sat down at the keyboard all those days to make it happen. Lovely. Later!