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Lost in Translation
Edward Willett
Five Star, 318 pages

Edward Willett
Edward Willett was born in Silver City, New Mexico, and moved to Weyburn, Saskatchewan, Canada from Texas as a child. He studied journalism at Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas; then returned to Weyburn to work as a reporter/photographer for the Weyburn Review, eventually becoming news editor. He then worked as communications officer for the Saskatchewan Science Centre in Regina for several years, quitting to become a full-time freelance writer in 1993. Ed is the author of three previous young adult science fiction and fantasy novels: Soulworm, which was short-listed for a 1997 Saskatchewan Book Award in the category of Best First Book; The Dark Unicorn, which was short-listed for a 1999 Saskatchewan Book Award in the category of Children's Literature -- both from Royal Fireworks Press, and Andy Nebula: Interstellar Rock Star from Roussan Publishers. Spirit Singer won the Regina Book Award for best book by a Regina writer in the Saskatchewan Book Awards. He has also published half-a-dozen non-fiction books for children, which include Meningitis, Arthritis, Hemophilia and Alzheimer's Disease, all part of the Diseases and People series from Enslow Publishers, and Careers in Outer Space from Rosen Publishing. Enslow Publishers have recently issued his children's biography of J.R.R. Tolkien, J.R.R. Tolkien: Master of Imaginary Worlds and he is currently working on a similar biography of Orson Scott Card. He has also published computer science books including: Teach Yourself Microsoft Publisher 2000, Your Official America Online Guide to Creating Web Pages, and Your Official America Online Guide to Internet Safety. Mr. Willett is webmaster and administrative assistant for SF Canada. Ed's short fiction has been published in On Spec, Transversions and Artemis Magazine. He also writes short stories, plays, and a weekly science column for the Regina Leader Post and CBC radio, and works professionally as an actor and singer. Ed lives in Regina, SK with his wife, Margaret Anne, a telecommunications engineer and their young daughter Alice.

Author's website
Hassenpfeffer, the author's blog site
ISFDB Bibliography
Interviews with Edward Willett: 1, 2
Spirit Singer: 1, 2
Lost in Translation: 1

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Georges T. Dodds

Lost in Translation
Lost in Translation is a space opera where humans and a bat-like race, the S'sinn, are locked in a bitter interplanetary feud which risks degenerating into an all out war. Jarrikk, a male S'sinn who has seen his friends slaughtered by human colonists, and Kathryn, a young woman whose entire family were slaughtered by the S'sinn have both become empathic Translators. They must work together to defuse the situation, but a power- and revenge-hungry S'sinn leader emerges, and the multi-racial Commonwealth is at risk.

While Lost in Translation has a nice message of cooperation and acceptance between widely differing life forms, and probably would entertain most juvenile readers, a number of things make it difficult to suspend disbelief and "buy into" the story as an adult. There are difficulties in terms of

  • the S'sinn society: The S'sinn have ships that can make light-speed hops through space, yet they live in a quasi-feudal society in stone castle-like buildings (something which the book cover reinforces); when they inadvertently fly into a human ambush they have no communication system to alert their own; they have temples lit with candles, when at least one amongst them can, with seemingly no equipment, produce sufficient energy to entirely explode a large farm animal.
  • the two main characters: Jarrikk, who initially vows "Death to Humans!" and immediately breaks a S'sinn-human truce, becomes, after training as a Translator, someone with at best a fairly mild dislike of humans, who quickly distances himself from Kitillick, the rebel S'sinn, and cooperates with Kathryn, a human, to defeat his own people. How his training has overcome his hatred and how his devotion to upholding the moral principles of the Translators and by extension of the Commonwealth, over the long ingrained precepts of his own culture, is never really explained. Similarly, Kathryn seems to overcome her past trauma when she becomes a Translator, quickly feeling comfortable working with a member of the race which slaughtered her parents.
  • we are told that certain of the advanced, benign and peace loving races within the Commonwealth have easily quelled previous armed uprisings with their superior minds and technology, but somehow, this time, they let things proceed until many on both sides are dead and an intervention by Translators of the fighting parties' racial groups are necessary to quash a war.

Lost in Translation makes a pleasant and young-reader appropriate read, if one doesn't try to think too deeply about things. While the S'sinn society is fairly original and well portrayed, much of the space opera is pretty stock footage type stuff, humans moving out from their home planet at war, brandishing ray guns and being under the watchful eye of a Galactic Federation. The characters are engaging and do evolve somewhat, not just remaining incorruptibly good or irredeemably evil, though the reasons behind their evolution are not always clear. Lost in Translation has some good action scenes and an interesting premise, but perhaps the author's seeming attempt to meld a fantasy-type feudal society with space opera elements wasn't the best idea. Certainly the author's The Spirit Singer, which was clearly a fantasy and a fantasy only, made for a better and more internally consistent, if shorter, read.

Copyright © 2005 Georges T. Dodds

Georges Dodds is a research scientist in vegetable crop physiology, who for close to 25 years has read and collected close to 2000 titles of predominantly pre-1950 science-fiction and fantasy, both in English and French. He writes columns on early imaginative literature for WARP, the newsletter/fanzine of the Montreal Science Fiction and Fantasy Association and maintains a site reflecting his tastes in imaginative literature.

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