marsroever, July 14, 2009 (view all comments by marsroever)
I enjoyed reading this book. It has a feel of good old fashioned speculative science fiction. Some well-researched science mixed in with a good dose of 'what if'. There is a good development of main characters for believability and enough action and suspense to create a nice pace. I look forward to reading more in this series
rebelaessedai, November 1, 2008 (view all comments by rebelaessedai)
City of Pearl has been on my wish list for awhile now. Since I've been finding it difficult to get into books lately, I decided to pick it up and give it a try. I was not disappointed.
This year I seem to be reading a lot of alien contact books, and I think Traviss has done the best in that particular sub-genre so far. It's difficult to imagine what other species in the universe might be
like, and even harder to make them real to us as readers. I mean, think about it. You have to be able to relate to the characters you're reading about in some way, but with alien contact novels you also have to be able to make them fundamentally different from us, at least
enough that it seems they've evolved somewhere other than Earth.
Which brings me to Aras, one of the main characters of the novel. Aras is the guardian of Bezer'ej, a world inhabited by underwater creatures who are extremely sensitive to biological changes in their environment. Aras is the destroyer of a colony of isenj, another alien
race that polluted the planet, killing the bezeri. Aras is host to a bug that renders him immortal, a dangerous boon to any population of enterprising individuals.
And you guessed it... here come the humans to complicate things.
Luckily, the first group to show up believe as the wess'har- Aras' race, sans immortality- do. They don't believe in harming the landscape, and they try to use everything to its maximum capacity. One thing I found interesting with this group was that they are a Christian group, very fundamentalist, but in many ways they uphold the
teachings of Christ. I seem to rarely find positive views on religion in science fiction. I think perhaps that by getting back to nature, away from technology and corruption, they are able to live peacefully
in their small colony. Perhaps their synergy as a group is also related to their fight to survive and the need to work together.
But another spaceship lands, this time with Marines and scientists, inevitably on a mission to make a buck. True human form, no? Desperate to avoid the need to
wipe out the humans as he did the isenj, Aras has to find a way to protect the planet while keeping the peace, not to mention the land, intact. He also has to keep his secret from the humans. And war is about to strike, alliances made and perhaps lost along with lives.
The story unfolds with Aras and the leader of the scientific mission, Shan, developing a believable alien-human relationship, one they may all come to unknowingly rely upon. Aras has a plausible reason for feeling so close to humankind- one that also keeps him away from his own kind as an anomaly. His own journey, though, leads him to heartache the humankind cannot even touch, for all that they are human emotions as well. And Shan has her
own hands full trying to maintain scientists whose intellectual curiosity might lead the to the mission's ultimate destruction.
City of Pearl is both a philosophical novel full of hope and an exploration of character. It's one of the first times I have discovered that one of the main characters- a strong female lead- is mostly unlikeable and yet oddly sympathetic. Those are always the best
characters, the ones who are flawed but who draw you in nonetheless.
Although I find it a bit preachy in places- veganism and earth preservation being main themes of the book- it is overall a story about issues near and dear to me: loneliness, empathy, and the strength of the human heart. A strong 9/10.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No (3 of 3 readers found this comment helpful)
Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at Powells.com.