Written by: Karen Traviss
Genre: Science Fiction
Pages: 392 (Mass Market Paperback)
Series: Book One of Six
The premise: ganked from BN.com: Three separate alien societies have claims on Cavanagh's Star. But the new arrivals--the gethes from Earth--now threaten the tenuous balance of a coveted world.
Environmental Hazard Enforcement officer Shan Frankland agreed to lead a mission to Cavanagh's Star, knowing that 150 years would elapse before she could finally return home. But her landing, with a small group of scientists and Marines, has not gone unnoticed by Aras, the planet's designated guardian. An eternally evolving world himself, this sad, powerful being has already obliterated millions of alien interlopers and their great cities to protect the fragile native population. Now Shan and her party--plus the small colony of fundamentalist humans who preceded them--could face a similar annihilation . . . or a fate far worse. Because Aras possesses a secret of the blood that would be disastrous if it fell into human hands--if the gethes survive the impending war their coming has inadvertently hastened.
Must Have: this is a space opera with a wee bit of hard SF thrown in, and a heckuva soft SF punch in terms of social sciences being the prominent vehicle for the story. I don't think this is the first time I've read an SF book with an environmental message, but it's the first time I've seen it crafted in this way. Traviss creates fascinating alien points of view and doesn't make humanity look all that great in comparison (for the most part, as there are human heroes), but if you sit back and really try and get into the alien POV, you realize that Traviss is asking her readers very valid questions about our place in the universe and where we really belong. And I embrace it not because I'm an environmentalist, not because I'm a cynic, but because Traviss has crafted a beautifully detailed world with characters who make sense, even when they do things you don't agree with. This book is the first of six, and I'm trying to get my hands on book two now, which is currently out of print short of the Kindle (go figure: a six book series and the ONLY book out of print is book two!). I can't wait to see where this series goes, where the characters go, and where Traviss takes her readers in terms of themes and messages. If you're a fan of SF, you'll definitely want to give this a shot. It's a different take on the whole first contact/aliens-are-superior type of story, and it's one well worth reading.
Review style: This book surprised me in that its rich in thematic and socio-economic issues. I was just expecting a wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am space opera! So I want to talk about the other cultures that permeate this book and how humanity fits into the bigger picture and what exactly it means to the reader. I want to talk characterization and how it impacts the plot, and I want to talk about how Traviss's tale of first contact (which technically isn't first contact) bears recognition. There will be spoilers, but oh, this is a fun one to discuss! Once you've read it, feel free to read the full review at my LJ. As always, comments and discussion are most welcome. :)
REVIEW: Karen Traviss's CITY OF PEARL
DON'T MISS OUT: Want a chance to win a free copy of the short story collection that deserves a Tiptree nod? Diana Comet and Other Improbable Stories by Sandra McDonald definitely fits the bill! Interested? Click here. Deadline 6/16.
Book club selections @ calico_reaction. Hop on over! We'd love to have you!
June: Sunshine by Robin McKinley
July: Summon the Keeper by Tanya Huff
August: Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente