home : news : reviews : features : fiction : podcast : blogs : t-shirts : wtf?

Reviewed by Velvet Delorey, ©

Format: Book
By:   Karin Lowachee
Genre:   Science Fiction
Released:   April 2002
Review Date:  
RevSF Rating:   8/10 (What Is This?)

So, three Canadian SF writers and three American SF writers are sitting in a bar....

You may think I'm about to crack wise with a remark that would make Rick Mercer or Roger Moore blush, but this was precisely the situation I found myself in at Ad Astra (a Canadian litSF con) this year.

The main reason I managed to drag my ass out of bed at an ungodly hour of the morning, on Saturday AND Sunday, with the remnants of a sinus cold from hell, no less, was simple: I wanted to meet up with a loyal Branch Riddellian like myself, and a writer with quite a few credits to her name, a fact which I hadn't paid careful enough attention to before. Turns out, she was meeting up with quite a few friends of her own, and I ended up, in the space of two days, being introduced to the members of not just one, but two, SF writer's groups, most of whom were published, or about-to-be-published, authors.

Which is how I ended up being centre stage for what could have appeared to the outsider to look like the grand setup to that very cliched joke I started above. Yes, the inevitable question was asked: "So, Velvet, do you write?" Exactly how was I supposed to answer that? Probably demurely, politely, with a humble "Oh yeah, I've done a review for Revolution Science Fiction, ya know."

That was precisely the moment the cold medication decided to kick in, however, and I ended up doing my dead-on impersonation of a burbling idiot. My earlier Troublemakers review was mentioned in the conversation, and a passing remark was made, "Oh, maybe you can review Karin Lowachee's book, if you're interested." Always eager to please, I of course said yes. (My personal motto being, I will try anything once. Even fried alligator. But that's a convention story for another time.)

This being a long and rambling account of how I came to be in possession of a reviewer's copy of Warchild, by Karin Lowachee, which will be published by Warner Aspect's Science Fiction imprint in April 2002. I can hear you screaming at your monitors, enough blathering about yourself, you geek-eyed witless wonder, how was the goddamned book? Funny you should ask.

Karin Lowachee's characters have a way of getting inside your head, when you're not even reading the book, which is something I haven't had a SF/F novel do for me in a long time. Maybe it's a simple psychological reaction to the prologue, which is written entirely in second person, present tense (a grammatical sleight-of-mind Lowachee pulls off seamlessly), which grabs you right from the start. Maybe it's the mark of a good writer, plying her craft correctly and with a respectable amount of skill. I lean towards the latter theory when it comes to Warchild.

This book has all the attributes one wants in good science fiction. Interesting, varied, (and in most cases, badly screwed-up) characters, a richly-detailed background, a well-fleshed-out alien species, an interstellar war complete with intrigue and espionage, a little bit of cyber (minus the annoying, self-ingratiating punk), and even valid, sensitive, and nicely-executed psychological studies of child abuse and its lasting effects and Stockholm Syndrome thrown in for good measure. All the while being a compelling and highly entertaining read.

The narrator throughout the book is Jos Musey, who goes from a child growing up on a merchant ship which is attacked and raided by a pirate spacecraft where he spends a year of his life and loses his childhood (which is where child abuse is examined, in a chilling and very believable way), to growing up on a planet that is truly alien to this character's eyes, as he has been born and brought up onboard ships and stations. In the course of the book, Jos passes through a rough and strangled childhood, on to an equally trying adolescence, and finally into the role of a respected young adult. All the while trying to navigate the role of double agent, and eventually peacemaker, between the two warring groups, the humans, the striviirc-na, and the human sympathizers who side with the aliens.

Yes, the striviirc-na . The alien language and terms as used in the book are a far cry from the "call it anything you want but mix up the consonants and vowels" technique that passes for alien language in most SF. While the philosophy and certainly the martial arts on display in the book borrow from the Eastern tradition, there could be a subtle play of satire at work here, with the philosophy-influenced fighting style of the striviirc-na versus the human military's regulation and politics-bound hierarchy contrasting almost deliberately... although both sides have their share of political troubles. It is not a sharply-drawn black-and-white comparison of the two sides at war. It is instead tinted with several shades of grey, and makes for an interesting framework to lay the characters and events of the book over, as seen through Musey's eyes.

Having a single viewpoint character throughout might be considered self-limiting in other novels, but in Warchild this narrative style is handled deftly, without sacrificing characterization or plot, and provides for an interesting read, as well as a sympathetic protagonist the reader will want to follow through to the end. Too, the writing has a knack for telling us what Jos doesn't see, through the use of skilled implications and barely-glimpsed edges of hints. Rather than distancing the reader from the narrative, especially in the beginning chapters, these veiled references serve to heighten the suspense and dramatic impact further.

Definitely a name to look for, hopefully Lowachee will add hers to the list of well-known female Canadian science fiction authors that includes Nalo Hopkinson and Julie E. Czerneda. Her personal voice certainly seems to be a distinctive one, and should only get more interesting with time.

Velvet Delorey's current claim to fame is a review of Troublemakers, by Harlan Ellison, here on RevolutionSF. She is in no other way notable, remarkable, or even memorable, save for Paul Riddell's occasional mentions of her and blatantly flattering abuses of her name in his articles, rants and newsletters. Contrary to popular belief, Velvet Delorey is not a figment of Paul's imagination, created solely to gain readers and to obtain the unquestioning loyalty and obedience of fear-filled Branch Riddellians. He did not have to rob any graves to get the parts for her, they came ready-to-assemble from the manufacturer. Her operating system is EvilAssistant2002 (EA2K2), she has 16384Megs of onboard RDRAM, a P20 chipset and an only-slightly faulty 40Tb hard drive. Velvet Delorey can be reached by accessing the 8000KHz band with a subharmonic pulse of telepathic energy. Or you can try checking the Branch Riddellian or RevolutionSF forums on Delphi, her Internet avatar maintains a healthy presence in both places at all times.

Recommend Us
  • Send to a Friend
  • Digg This
  • Reddit It
  • Add to del.ic.ious
  • Share at Facebook
  • Discuss!
  • Send Feedback
  • Book Forum
  • Related Pages
  • Print This Page
  • Search RevSF
  • New on RevSF
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi
  • Book Probe: BattleMaster, Wade of Aquitaine, Kriendria of Amorium
  • RevSF Podcast: Drowning in Moonlight: Remembering Carrie Fisher
  • Logan
  • RevSF Home


    Things From Our Brains
    Get even more out of RevSF.

    The only free sci-fi and humor zine left in America.
    RevolutionSF RSS Feed
    Search RevSF

    Random RevSF
    Wolf Lake: As Cancelled As A Werewolf Show Can Be

    contact : advertising : submissions : legal : privacy
    RevolutionSF is ™ and © Revolution Web Development, Inc., except as noted.
    Intended for readers age 18 and above.