Humanity, finding themselves alone in the Universe, set out to terraform and colonize nearby planets. But an accidental infestation by the alien Quill rendered all the carefully terraformed planets uninhabitable, and stranded colonists on overcrowded and unsustainable transit stations. Two decades later, Dr Gail Smith thinks that one special colonist, Aaron Pardell, might hold a clue to an uninfected planet. Her arrival from Earth at Thromberg Station triggers of a chain of events that might lead to success, or to the destruction of everyone aboard.
This is a good read. The adaptation of humans to an extremely overcrowded society is well drawn. At first it appears stable, but it becomes clear that actually it is a powderkeg, ready to explode at the slightest provocation. And the stationers acceptance of the different Aaron, but only up to a point, is also neatly woven in. The twists and turns keep you guessing, and once again Czerneda does great alien aliens.
Things began so well. She and her Human friend Paul Ragem are ready to celebrate the first anniversary of their greatest accomplishment, the All Species' Library of Linguistics and Culture, by welcoming his family hack. He hopes. Having mourned his supposed death years ago, understandably, feelings are bent.
Instead, they’ve unexpected guests, starting with an old acquaintance. Paul’s father has gone missing under dire circumstances.
Before Paul can convince Esen to help him search, a friend shows up to use the Library. A crisis on Dokeci Na is about to explode into violence. To stop it, Evan Gooseberry needs answers. Unfortunately, the artifact he brought in trade holds its own distracting secret. A touch of very familiar blue. Web-flesh.
The race is on. Paul, to find his father. Esen, to search for a mysterious legacy while helping Evan avert an extinction. What none of them realize is the price of success will be the most terrible choice of all.
Complicating matters, a mysterious contagion has killed the crew of the ship that brought the chimeras—and Evan—to Botharis. Everyone’s been quarantined inside the All Species’ Library of Linguistics and Culture, including over a hundred disgruntled alien scholars.
The risks climb as Skalet and Lionel continue their quest to solve the disappearance of Paul’s mother’s ship, the Sidereal Pathfinder, only to find themselves caught in a tangle of loyalties as Skalet is betrayed by her own Kraal affiliates, who infiltrate the Library.
All of which would be quite enough for one Web-being’s day, but Paul Ragem hopes to rekindle the romance of his first love. A shame Esen hasn’t told him who’s hiding in their greenhouse…
Something malevolent lurks in deep space, something able to pluck starships from their course and cause their crews to vanish.
It has a purpose: to use those ships to mark an unmistakable boundary. A warning.
It has an interest: Botharis, the planet where Esen and Paul have established the All Species’ Library of Linguistics and Culture. Home to Veya Ragem, whose ship was the first to trespass.
Esen and Paul will need every resource, every friend and even foes, if they’re to discover who—or what—is behind this before more are lost. Once they do, Esen plans to use her abilities to comprehend and reason with this new species. What she doesn’t know? There truly are monsters. And they wait for you in the dark.
Esen is the youngest of only six members of the Web -- an immensely long-lived species that can cycle into the form of any other intelligent species it has "remembered". The Web lives in closely guarded secrecy, until Esen is forced to reveal her true nature to the human first contact specialist Ragem. But it isn't the ephemeral species like the humans that the Web is hiding from...
Czerneda has a marvellous galaxy full of wildly differing species. A few may be humanoid in appearance, if not in behaviour -- but most are definitely alien in both. The protagonist is probably the most alien, and alienated, of the lot, although, as the story progresses, she comes to appreciate the friendship of the human Ragem -- despite actually spending a lot of time trying to escape from him and his persistent curiosity, to preserve the secret of the Web. The plot structure, as the Enemy hunts the members of the Web, allows us a tour of all this wonderful strangeness, woven together into a fascinating study of various cultures and various peoples. And since Esen is a shapechanger, we get to see various very different aliens from a first person viewpoint -- without having to change that viewpoint.
A great story, set in a great universe.
Except Jenn Nalynn.
Jenn longs to travel, to seek what’s missing from her life. Not that she’s sure what that is, but since this summer began, she’s felt a strange and powerful yearning. She’s certain she’ll find what she needs, if only she can leave the valley.
But she must not.
Jenn is turn-born and cursed, born by the light of two worlds and bound to both. For the valley is more than it seems. Long ago, a cataclysm of misused power pinned Marrowdell to the Verge, a place of wild magic, home to dragons and even stranger creatures. Should Jenn step beyond Marrowdell, she will pull the worlds asunder, destroying all along that edge. To prevent this, powers from the Verge have sent a guard to watch over her, a disgraced dragon Jenn knows as Wisp, her invisible playmate. Wisp’ s duty 18 to keep Jenn in Marrowdell.
By love, if he can. By her death, if he must.
But time is running out. What Jenn unknowingly feels is the rise of the Verge’s magic within her, a magic that will threaten her and those she loves. Worse, strangers have come to Marrowdell. For this summer will end with a Great Turn, the moment when anything is possible, and those seeking power at any cost may once more try to force an opening into the Verge, to the ruin of all.
Though Jenn has always dreamed of venturing beyond this sheltered valley when she came of age, she is soon faced with the grim reality that for her, setting foot beyond Marrowdell’s borders in the normal way is impossible.
Then Bannan Larmensu—the truthseer who won Jenn’s heart—learns that his brother-in-law has disappeared in Channen, the capital of the mysterious domain of Mellynne. And when Bannan’s young nephews arrive in Marrowdell in the midst of a devastating storm, he fears that his sister has gone in search of her husband, leaving her sons in his care.
The law forbids the exiled Bannan from leaving Marrowdell and traveling to Mellynne to help his sister. At least, in this world. But as a turn-born, Jenn has the power to cross into the magical realm of the Verge—and take Barman with her. Once there they could find a way into Mellynne, if they survive.
The Verge is wild and deadly, alive with strange magic. Dragons roar and kruar wait in ambush, and not all the powerful turn-born who tend their world care for Jenn Nalynn. But Jenn is willing to try. Their friends Wisp and Scourge—and the house toads—offer their help.
But what none of them know is that Channen is rife with magic that flows from the Verge itself. And not even a turn-born will be safe there.
Calling themselves the Clan, they settled among Humanity, hiding in plain sight, using their ability to slip past normal space to travel where they wished, using their ability to control minds to ensure their place and security.
They are no longer hidden.
For the Clan face a crisis. Their reproduction is tied to individual power, and their latest generation of females, Choosers, are too strong to safely mate. Their attempt to force others to help failed until Sira di Sarc, their leader and the most powerful of their kind ever born, successfully Joined with a human, Jason Morgan, starship captain and telepath. With Morgan, Sira forged the first peace between her kind and the Trade Pact. Together, they now search for an answer.
But it is a peace about to shatter. Those the Clan have controlled all these years will rise against them. Her people dying around her, war about to consume the Trade Pact, Sira will be left with only one choice.
She must find the way back.
And take the Clan home.
Their starship, powered by the M’hir, follows a course set long ago, for Clan abilities came from an experiment their ancestore—the Hoveny—conducted on themselves. But it’s a perilous journey because their dead are Calling.
Sira must keep her people from answering, for if they do, they die. Morgan searches the ship for answers, afraid the Hoveny tech is beyond his grasp. Their only hope? To reach their destination.
Little do Sira and Morgan realize their destination holds the gravest threat of all, for Brightfall is a world with a secret. Buried beneath its surface is the planet-spanning capital of the Hoveny Concentrix, quiescent and almost forgotten. A city waiting for the return of those sent to Cersi. A city ready to wake.
Sira’s willing, if that’s the price of a future, but not everyone on Brightiall wants to reopen the past. For what lives in the M’hir has been waiting too.
And what destroyed the Hoveny once is willing to do so again.
Only to return, alone and silent.
But he’s returned to a Trade Pact under siege and desperate. The Assemblers continue to be a threat. Other species have sensed opportunity and threaten what stability remains, including those who dwell in the M’hir. What Morgan knows could save them all, or doom them.
For not all of the Clan followed Sira. And peace isn’t what they seek.
Sira is all alone, abandoned on a hostile world, robbed of everything, including her memories. She teams up with Space Captain Morgan, fleeing the various factions pursuing her for unknown reasons, unsure of who is friend and who is deadly foe. As her memories patchily return, she discovers Morgan may not be all he seems. But she may not be all she seems, either.
This confident first novel is set against the background of a wonderfully complex universe, with various and varied alien species being only precariously held together by the Trade Pact. Sira is a well-drawn engaging character, at first struggling to form a new persona on the blank slate of her memories, then gradually discovering just who she used to be. The rapidly unfolding plot has many interesting twists and turns, some of which took me by surprise.
Although there are sequels, this is a self-contained story with a satisfactory conclusion.
Czerneda does really great aliens.
This is the continuing story of Clan member Sira di Sarc and the human Jason Morgan. They think they've escaped the machinations of the Clan, and are living peacefully in exile. The conspiracy is still intact, however, and when something precious is stolen from Sira, she desperately sends Jason off to retrieve it. But when she tries to follow, she finds herself instead in the company of the Drapsk, who oh-so-politely and courteously insist she participate in their mysterious Ceremony.
The action is almost as frenetic as previously, and we get more wonderful aliens. The Drapsk are gorgeous, the Retians are repulsive, and we meet old friends: Huido with his eyestalks, Bowman, Rael. What makes all these different aliens so good is that they aren't alien only in their appearance, they are alien in their psychologies, too.
And again, although there is a further sequel promised, this has a satisfactory conclusion.
Here we have the conclusion to the story of Clan member Sira di Sarc and her human Chosen Jason Morgan, as yet more peril befalls them, from the polite little alien Drapsk, Morgan's sinister human telepath enemy Symon, and even Sira's own forgotten past. All done with Czerneda's usual great aliens, from the huge "shellfish" Huido to the truly alien Rugheran.
There's no explicit recap of the earlier books, but enough drip-feeding of information that the five year gap in my reading wasn't too confusing. Lots of convoluted criss-crossing plotlines converge to a mind-boggling, and intensely incomprehensibly alien, climax. A good conclusion to the trilogy.