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Amy Thomson
Ace, 372 pages

Amy Thomson
Amy Thomson was born in 1958 in Miami, Florida. Her first book was Virtual Girl from Ace in 1993. She won the John W. Campbell Award in 1994 and was a finalist for the Phillip K. Dick Award for The Color of Distance in 1996. Amy Thomson lives in Seattle with her husband, Edd Vick.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Colour Of Distance
SF Site Review: The Color of Distance
SF Site Review: Through Alien Eyes

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Donna McMahon

On the opposite end of the heartwarming spectrum lies Amy Thomson's new novel, Storyteller, which seems likely to become a much revisited comfort book among female readers.

Samad's story is something that is not supposed to happen on the peaceful planet Thalassa. Only eight years old, he was orphaned and mistreated by foster parents, so he ran away and lives out of garbage cans on the streets of Melilla.

His life changes utterly when he meets and is adopted by Teller, a senior master of the storyteller's Guild, who spends her life sailing across the huge oceans of this archipelago planet, helping to keep the history and customs of Thalassa alive for each new generation. Samad turns out to be a natural storyteller himself, and he is even one of the rare gifted humans who can communicate telepathically with 'harsels' -- huge, sentient, ocean-dwellers whose song stories stretch back for thousands of years before the arrival of human colonists.

Samad quickly strikes up a friendship with Teller's closest companion, the harsel Abeha, and for a while their travels are idyllic. But soon it is time for Abeha to mate and breed, and to do this she must die.

Storyteller is an easy book to get into and there is a great deal to like about it. Samad and Teller are well defined, sympathetic characters and their planet is interesting, especially the whale-like harsels and their tragic breeding cycle. Most importantly, Thomson writes with passion and intensity about universal human issues of motherhood, parenting and death.

Some readers will find this book immensely touching. However, readers who prefer a harder edge are liable be put off by sentimentality, weak conflict and a too-readily resolved plot that smacks of wish fulfillment. After Abeha's mating cycle, the last third of the novel has little to drive it and the idealized, slightly wooden depiction of Samad becomes all too evident.

Nonetheless, I enjoyed Storyteller, which is an entertaining yarn with a good deal more than average to say about life and mortality. Thomson seems to have put more of herself into this book than any of her previous novels, and her genuine passion shines through.

Copyright © 2004 Donna McMahon

Donna McMahon discovered science fiction in high school and fandom in 1977, and never recovered. Dance of Knives, her first novel, was published by Tor in May, 2001, and her book reviews won an Aurora Award the same month. She likes to review books first as a reader (Was this a Good Read? Did I get my money's worth?) and second as a writer (What makes this book succeed/fail as a genre novel?). You can visit her website at

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