January 11, 2018

Review: This Gulf of Time and Stars

This Gulf of Time and Stars This Gulf of Time and Stars by Julie E. Czerneda
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the seventh book in the Clan Chronicles series, a series that started twenty years ago with the author's first published novel, A Thousand Words for Stranger. Czerneda is a biologist, and it shows; her aliens are complex and fascinating. The aliens in this series are the Clan, a species that looks Human, and can hide among the various aliens and Humans that make up the Trade Pact. The Clan have psi powers and can teleport through an extradimensional space they call the M'hir, even between planets and star systems. The ability to manipulate and travel through the M'hir is of great value to them, so much so they have deliberately bred for it, in the process breeding themselves into a extinction-causing corner. Their females, called Choosers, must mate with males with stronger psychic powers than the Choosers' own, or the Joining will kill the hapless males. This power increases with each generation, until the appearance of the strongest Chooser ever born, Sira di Sarc...a Clanswoman who will kill anyone who tries to mate with her.

This problem is solved in the first three books in the series, when Sira Joins with a Human man, Captain Jason Morgan. The second three books of the series, Reap the Wild Wind, Riders of the Storm and Rift in the Sky, are a prequel, going back several generations to the Clan's ancestors and their original (or at least it was thought to be then) planet of Cersi, and what led the Clan to split and part of them to migrate to Trade Pact space.

Now, generations later, with Sira di Sarc the leader of the Clan, the series comes full circle. Various shady elements in the Trade Pact try to assassinate the Clan (which even after all this time, due to their reproductive problems, number just under a thousand members total) and succeed in killing off a great many of them. (If you're asking how a species with telepathic powers can be taken by surprise and slaughtered, the answer is, again, due to the author's skill in creating believable alien species. In this case the assassins are one of the scariest, creepiest aliens I have ever seen in print--the Assemblers, beings composed of various sentient parts that blend into a mind-shared whole. There are several scenes of hands/feet/heads/torsos/et cetera scrabbling through landscapes or rolling across floors, and the mental picture that gave me was almost enough to make me run screaming from the room.) In Sira's desperation to find a refuge for her people, she returns to the place in Trade Pact space where they first emerged, and takes the survivors through the M'hir to Cersi, the planet from where they came.

That isn't the end of the story, of course. There is a deeper mystery here, as Sira, Jason Morgan, and the rest of the Clan discover. Perhaps the book started off a bit slow, but that was necessary to set the stage, and give a brief fleeting impression of normalcy and happiness before everything goes to hell. There are very nice relationships between the various characters, especially Sira and her Chosen, Jason Morgan. There are two books remaining in the series, both of which I'm anxious to get to. I'm quite invested in these characters and this series, and if you give it a chance, I think you will be too.

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