Jim C. Hines (jimhines) wrote,
Jim C. Hines
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The Wannoshay Cycle, by Michael Jasper

The Wannoshay Cycle [Amazon | Mysterious Galaxy]* is Michael Jasper's first SF novel, but he's been writing and selling short fiction for years to places like Asimov's, Interzone, Writers of the Future, and more. One thing that's always struck me about Jasper's writing is his skill with characterization. His heroes aren't idealized wonder-protagonists, but real people trying to make their way through life in the face of challenges both ordinary and extraordinary.

The premise of The Wannoshay Cycle might be familiar to some readers: alien refugees from a dying world crash land on Earth. But whereas some authors would use that premise to explore the flash and glitter of aliens and spaceships, Jasper uses it as a way to explore us. We must adapt as much as the aliens. His heroes are a single mother struggling to raise a sick child, a priest fighting to hold on to his faith, a young drug addict and filmmaker ... real people, each one affected in different ways by the arrival of the Wannoshay. The mother fears for her job as the U.S. government attempts to integrate the Wannoshay into the factory where she works. The priest must find his role when he's brought in to speak to the Wannoshay about faith.

Jasper's characters feel right. Their choices, their reactions, everything they do feels true to life. One of the best examples of this is the way some of the characters react the first time they meet one of the Wannoshay. There's a moment of instinctive fear and panic. The Wannoshay are something outside of our experience. Millions of years of evolution have done nothing to prepare us for the truly alien, and that moment of first contact is overwhelming. Jasper captures that moment several times, and while it might be less glamorous than the heroic explorer who meets a new race without a glimmer of fear, Jasper's version is far more believable.

The plot is a bit light compared to some SF fare. There are no space battles, no desperate race to save mankind from destruction. Much of the book feels almost leisurely as we learn more about the characters and the Wannoshay's struggle against cultists and racism, not to mention the mysterious ailment plaguing much of their race. It is this ailment that drives the plot, as our characters learn more about the choices the Wannoshay made when they left their world.

Jasper has clearly spent a great deal of time developing the Wannoshay and their culture**. The result is an interesting book, and a perceptive examination of how America might react to the arrival of such refugees.

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*The Wannoshay Cycle is published by Five Star Books, the same publisher that first released Goblin Quest. Now I of course believe that everyone should go out and buy every single book that I review (except for the bad ones). In this case, Five Star specializes in library sales, so another choice would be to request the book at your local library.

**He's written several short stories about the Wannoshay, including a wonderful tale called "Drinker," available in Heroes in Training [Amazon | Mysterious Galaxy]. [/End Shameless Plug]
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