Paul and Esen (an ancient energy being able to adopt other forms at will) are semi-retired, dedicated to a universal library of knowledge they hope will stop conflict between species before they get out of hand. But even nestled on a quiet planet, the flood of inter-galactic travelers brings with it trouble out of their past.
I’m a fan of Julie Czerneda’s writing. I even have a rare (for me) fan fiction piece in one of her anthologies. And the Web Shifters series was among the first of her books I read. I was ready, therefore, to be excited by this new, follow-on series. I’m sorry to say that I wasn’t.
I was excited enough at the start – the story returns to the familiar, friendly characters of the earlier series, and does a pretty good job of refreshing the backstory for those of us who have been away for a while. Unfortunately, aside from that, the plot is something of a muddle. There’s too much going on, and too little direction in the story overall. The structure meanders from one theme and sub-plot (of many) to another without much logic or clarity. It’s not so much that it’s hard to follow as that it’s simply not interesting. Which is a shame, because the concept is interesting, as is Esen herself. I’ve no inside knowledge of any kind, but the feeling I got was that Czerneda (for all I admire her) has gotten too big for her britches, and could have used a much stronger editorial hand – someone who could have trimmed the excess and imposed some order on the storyline.
The Library at the nominal heart of the story is ill-defined and mostly just a framework for Esen to have adventures without traveling. Lots of adventures, with aliens of many kinds, and subplots galore, most of them involving one family or another.
Did you notice how I said “I’ve” a few lines back? There are contractions that have largely fallen out of favor in the modern idiom, and it amuses me to uses them from time to time in conversation. They’re correct, but because they’re rare, they feel wrong. Either they’re not so far out of favor in Canada, or Czerneda has a similar amusement. More than that, she’s on a quest to single-handedly wrest them back into common parlance. The book is chock full of phrases such as “I’d the freedom”. There’s no confusion here – it’s clearly “I had the freedom”. And yet, we don’t normally use the contraction this way; we just say “I had”. I approve of Czerneda’s intent here, but the frequency of it is more distracting than interesting.
All in all, a sequel with great potential that it doesn’t live up to. I’ll still pick up the next book in the series (Julie Czerneda, after all), but with less optimism. Here’s hoping that for the second round, she lets the editor have a freer hand.
As a minor point, I thought Carasian females were … not so smart. Aren’t Huido’s wives depicted as fairly mindless? Yet here there’s one who’s very much in command of her faculties.
16 May 2019 Science fiction | Julie E. Czerneda | Web Shifter's Library |