Ti and Si are members of the spacefaring LeMu, a race that possesses superior technology and genetic knowledge, though the confines of space travel have bred emotion out of them. The elders have tasked Ti and Si with studying the humans of Earth, whom they call the Guiyari. The goal is to eventually perform a cultural exchange with the Guiyari and regain the capacity for emotion and creativity—while avoiding man’s tendency toward violence. Ti is perfectly suited to this study since he’s a mutant born with the ability to feel “strong emotions.” Si, meanwhile, is a half-breed Guiyari, so Ti must be on the lookout for her potential for emotion as he watches the earthlings. On Earth, the two must also watch out for the presence of the SaMu, other beings who have lost the full use of their bodies and seek to enslave mankind. Ti and Si begin their mission by placing a young man named Kaspar Hauser in 1828 Nuremberg, Germany. This experiment will test how humanity deals with a stranger who doesn’t communicate well and is completely dependent on their kindness. Debut author Galbraith’s clever conceit is that his sci-fi framework can explain the real-life mystery of Kaspar Hauser, a man who lived during the 19th century. Galbraith presents further mysteries, most of them involving missing ships and crew, on a timeline leading into the 20th century. Sometimes, his commitment to detail helps enliven what is essentially a casebook; Kaspar, for example, “had been imprisoned in a small cell only seven feet long, four feet wide and five feet high. No sunlight ever entered.” Many details, however—like Lord Charles Stanhope’s passion for collecting snuffboxes—feel extraneous. At the end of each mystery, readers get analysis from Ti and Si, but these scenes rarely compensate for the repetitive excursions into history that precede them. More dialogue and less exposition might have given this great idea a richer story.
A fascinating concept with too dry a delivery.