An original take on various sci-fi motifs that meditates on themes of love and humanity.
Traversing time and space, Stebbins’ space opera follows the long journey of a singularly gifted Earth girl named Ambra Dawn, who might just be the savior of the entire universe. Even as a young girl among humans, Ambra was different. Odd and strange, she possessed an ability coveted by all alien species: a gift to see the future and the past, the result of a tumor growing in her brain. Unbeknownst to the inhabitants of Earth, an insectlike alien race called the Dram rules from the shadows. Influencing culture and politics, they’re here to guide human evolution toward producing Readers—those, like Ambra, who possess the ability to guide Dram ships through the Orbs. With tendrils reaching out, Orbs allow for instantaneous space travel, but what the Orbs truly are is unknown and debated. Ambra’s idyllic life in farm country is destroyed when humans working for the Dram come and take her. In an institution, she’s tested, beaten and experimented on. Horrific surgeries mutilate and blind her, and her skull is removed to give her tumor room to grow. The only escape Ambra has is to travel through time, back into history on her own to learn and experience life. But, since the Dram don’t realize she has surpassed every other Reader in terms of power and ability, Ambra is taken from Earth and sold into slavery. Stebbins does an exceptional job creating unique, detailed alien races, from the dreadful, cruel Dram to the octopuslike Sortax who live in water and the Xix, who rescue Ambra from enslavement. Long, lean, four-armed, intelligent and kind, the Xix work to prevent cruelty against the lesser races. Two Xixians, Waythrel and Thel, are especially strong alien characters who act as guides for Ambra, helping her develop her abilities. Although the first half of the novel suffers from too much telling and too little action, the second half comes alive. Ambra, able to travel through Orbs like no one before, takes on the Dram in a dramatic conflict that leads to her facing the Dram emperor. In order to free the universe of the Dram scourge, Ambra must make a heart-wrenching choice: the universe or Earth. Eventually, the novel takes a slightly odd turn toward metafiction, as Ambra informs the reader that they, too, have a part in saving the Earth.
A richly detailed, compelling story about the power of love.