Ward (The Bullet Collection, 2003) offers a tale of a woman discovering her alien origins.
On modern-day Earth, a race of powerful aliens known as the Nafikh disguise themselves as human in order to walk among us. But they’re a dangerous and often violent lot, so they created a race of Servs, servants who appear completely human, to help clean up their messes. Servs are “dropped” on Earth by their Nafikh masters, often at young ages, and spend their existence living—and very frequently dying—at the whims of their powerful alien overlords. A Serv named Lucy was sent to Earth as a baby, but she was mistaken for a foundling and raised by adoptive human parents. After an anguished childhood feeling like she never fit in, Lucy discovers what she truly is and enters into life as a Serv, although she doesn’t quite fit in there, either. She does her best to keep her Serv and human lives separate, but when she’s implicated in the death of a Serv child, it looks as though everything will fall apart. Although the plot begins slowly and drifts a bit in the book’s first third, once the pace picks up it quickly becomes an absorbing read. The full details of the Nafikh aliens are never completely explained; readers only ever know as much as Lucy knows, which some may find a little frustrating. But Ward’s prose is expressive and often unexpectedly beautiful—in one instance, she describes an elderly woman as having “the unmistakable odor of a body collapsing.” Lucy’s adoptive mother and cousin are especially well-rendered, not just as real human beings, but as people who’ve been particularly shaped by the environment they live in. Ultimately, though, a plot development at the story’s climax leads to a rather dissatisfying ending and keeps the book from being truly exceptional.
High-caliber, often engrossing literary sci-fi.