In this powerful sci-fi tale of alien contact, a group of humans searches for a way home, with the end of the universe on the horizon.
For years, Min has been living among the Tsi-pacians, large, reptilelike aliens who have taken her in and provided her with what seems an idyllic life. But when new humans arrive on the planet, they tell Min that she’s being treated like a pet, then, against her will, they attempt to rescue her. But when slave traders pick up Min and the humans who attempted to rescue her, it’s only through luck that they’re rescued by Donva, a healer from the Umian Empire—whose government is as powerful as the Tsi-pacian’s. Donva reveals that Min’s childlike behavior is due to implants in her brain, and he offers to remove them, but Min is frightened to admit that her life with the Tsi-pacians was a lie. Carden deftly shows Min’s journey from false naïveté into a fully fleshed-out human being with regrets and desires for the future, maneuvering the point of view so subtly that it’s difficult to tell where the wounded Min ends and the recovered Min begins. The aliens’ lifestyles and governments may be strange, but when their betrayals shift and truths are revealed, readers will identify even with some of the antagonists. If only the secondary human characters had been better described in the early stages of the novel, they’d have a better opportunity to develop into distinct, complex characters, too. With its competing alien factions and human civil wars, the galaxy Carden designs can be enticingly complex, but all the elements are introduced naturally, so readers won’t be overwhelmed with details, nor surprised by sudden revelations about the world. A solid copy edit would improve the story further.
Deft narration, well-drawn characters and a complex but cohesive plot ignite this surefire sci-fi success.