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Beholder's Eye
Julie E. Czerneda
DAW Books, 413 pages

Art: Luis Royo
Beholder's Eye
Julie E. Czerneda
Julie Czerneda is a Canadian science fiction writer who lives at the edge of a forest in Orillia, Ontario with her husband and two children. A former researcher in animal communication, she has also written non-fiction that ranges from biology texts to the use of science fiction in developing literacy. Beholder's Eye is her second novel.

Julie E. Czerneda Website
ISFDB Bibliography interview
A Thousand Words for Stranger excerpt
SF Site Review: A Thousand Words For Stranger

Past Feature Reviews
A review by James Seidman

Beholder's Eye is Julie Czerneda's second novel. She entered the science fiction scene last year with her delightful debut book, A Thousand Words for Stranger. In Beholder's Eye, she continues with one of the key themes from Stranger, in which a member of a secretive, powerful race winds up getting much too closely involved with a human, leading to profound consequences.

The book's protagonist is Esen-alit-Quar, the youngest of a race of shapeshifters. Being only a few hundred years old, Esen is now just ready for her first assignment -- to spend a decade on a planet studying the culture of the local inhabitants. Despite her confidence, things rapidly go astray when she finds humans on the planet as well. Soon, she's managed to violate her race's most important rule by revealing her nature to a human.

This might be easily recoverable were it not for another problem. Some type of being has entered known space and started killing. This creature is a threat to all life, but especially to the shapeshifters. Ironically, a human captain is convinced that Esen is herself this monster. Esen must then avoid the hunt for her while simultaneously trying to investigate a being that threatens her entire race.

Throughout it all, Esen becomes closer and closer friends with a human. Since she has hardly had any meaningful interactions with someone of another species, she is ill-prepared for the consequences that friendship can bring. This friendship is further complicated by the danger that her friend will be drawn into the hunt against her.

One unusual aspect of Beholder's Eye is Czerneda's ability to beautifully craft alien species. Since Esen is a shapeshifter, she winds up as a variety of different species, in each case being subject to the inbred instincts and predilections of that race. Czerneda uses the opportunity to create widely different species, a far cry from the cookie-cutter critters found in so much science fiction. Czerneda's background in animal communications obviously serves her well here.

The unusual premise and excellent writing combine to make Beholder's Eye a wonderfully entertaining book. I'm looking forward to the sequel Czerneda has planned for the future.

Copyright © 1998 James Seidman

James Seidman is a busy technology manager at a Fortune 100 company, who needs the excuse of doing book reviews to give himself time to read. He lives with his wife, daughter, two dogs, and twenty-seven fish in Naperville, Illinois.

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