Byykkonen’s debut sci-fi novel centers on a young girl and her unexpected abilities.
Qassi is 14 when her mother asks a spice smuggler named Vinson to take her to her grandmother’s. What should be a simple trip on the planet Hazhur instead turns into a life-altering event when Vinson’s Hak-9 automobile tumbles off the highway—an event Vinson dreads not so much for the impact as for the fact that he and Qassi are now on the surface of Hazhur. Those who can afford it live far above in “clusters of elegant skyscrapers”; only the poor and dangerous dwell on the ground among the “fields of garbage.” When Vinson encounters a crashed alien ship, a band of thugs—“low even among humankind”—and two telepathic agents find the pair, and one of the male aliens wounds Qassi with a sword. Though the wound initially appears fatal, the contents of a stuffed toy animal, given by an alien and slashed open during the attack, have a strange effect on Qassi. In short order, she not only recovers but becomes “dahlu’nar. Immortal, invulnerable, and incorruptible.” As Qassi develops new abilities including glowing eyes and telepathy, a group of sinister aliens are bent on her destruction as well as the destruction of mankind—“humans had been blithely going about their lives, totally oblivious to a powerful and brutal alien presence that had been…patiently awaiting permission to begin a routine extermination.” Full of philosophical inquiry (“In fact, individual humans didn’t even understand their own selves, which was very hard to imagine. How could one be a stranger to oneself?”) and rocket-fueled sci-fi, the story provides its share of unexpected twists and explosions. Some descriptions—“The small fleet of fifty-two ships dropped down from superluminal velocity and opened up with lasers, MAK cannons, particle beam projectors, a variety of missiles, and even a few torpedoes and bombs”—may seem like overkill to casual fans of the genre, but readers excited by the combination of mysterious alien powers and futuristic warfare will find plenty of both.
A far-reaching, thoughtful and laser-filled adventure influenced by Asimov and other interstellar classics.