Thursday, August 02, 2007

Planet of the lizardi

kw: book reviews, science fiction

I read three opening chapters of Planet Torn Asunder by K.J. Wolf, set it aside for an hour, then the closing two chapters and epilogue.

Portraying an alien race or two "from the inside", and visiting humans from the alien viewpoint, has been done a few times, though here it is done fairly well. The plot could have been culled from the life of any of several Roman, Byzantine, or Chinese emperors who eliminated parents to secure power, then crusaded his way to imperial poverty.

The unique element I noted is a serious attempt to meld high technology and culture, including starfaring craft, with a crocodilian metabolism. These wise, emotional reptiles spend a lot of time on warmed "soothing stones" and dash indoors at sunset to avoid stupefaction by the cold. Yet they can stand upright when needed and created tools and a civilization.

The diverse lizard races with names visibly related to Anole, Gecko, Skink, and so forth, just don't work for me. If you've listened to recordings of whale song (not just humpbacks, but fin, blue, and sperm whales and others), it's easy to realize that if "Humpback" is a language, each of the other cetacean utterances differs from all the others by as great a gulf as each differs from any human language. Geckos and Anoles are as different, genetically, as humans and dolphins.

The story could have held me if it were written in a less obviously juvenile tone. It reminded me of stories from "Boys Life" when I was a Scout. However, let me offer credit where it is due: I've found even short stories too demanding, and have yet to finish one...let alone novels. I can write reams of nonfiction, but it takes another level of imagination to sustain an interior world through a long writing project.

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