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The Color of Distance
Amy Thomson
Ace Books, 472 pages

The Color of Distance
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 Color of Distance
SF Site Review: Through Alien Eyes

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Donna McMahon

Juna has a problem. She is sworn to adhere to strict non-interference directives, but her first contact with an alien race comes when her shuttle crashes on an alien planet and the aliens rescue her from certain death. Now she depends on them to keep her alive in a hostile environment until she can regain contact with her Earth expedition -- but it is impossible to live for months or years with an alien tribe without influencing them.

Of course, there is only one realistic solution. Juna breaks the rules by staying alive and becomes the first human to study an alien race. And, inevitably, her interaction with them sows seeds of change in a previously stable society.

The main problem with The Color of Distance, from a structural standpoint, is that the protagonist doesn't move the plot -- instead she is carried along by events, and her decisions have little influence on their outcome. This may be plausible, but it doesn't build strong momentum. However, the overall problem in the novel -- will Juna survive and be rescued from the planet? -- sustains enough tension to keep the book moving.

But what really carries the novel is Amy Thomson's complex and intricate rain forest ecosystem and its frog-like aliens who communicate by 'writing' colours across their skin instead of through speech. By contrast, Juna and the other human characters are somewhat flat, and Juna's reactions often shallow or improbable.

Copyright © 2002 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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