Reviews Logo
SearchHomeContents PageSite Map
Hilari Bell
Roc Books, 336 pages

Hilari Bell
Hilari Bell's other novels include Songs of Power (2000) and A Matter of Profit (2001).

ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Donna McMahon

Critical SF readers will find almost everything wrong with Hilari Bell's first novel, Navohar. The background story is ridiculous (aliens coming to Earth to abduct human slaves?!). The science is stupid. Her alien planet looks just like Earth with a few exceptions -- for instance the camels, for no discernible reason, have three eyes and six legs (very Edgar Rice Burroughs, especially when the heroine is attacked by a six-legged puma). And the big secret in the plot is so obvious that the reader has deduced it long before the blundering protagonist.

Nonetheless, I finished this book because the writing is competent, the characters are well-drawn, and the underlying moral dilemma is genuine, even if it has been tackled more skillfully by other writers.

Microbiologist Irene Olsen is a crew member aboard a starship sent out to determine the fate of twenty-two missing human colonies and also to search for a cure to a bio-engineered plague which is devastating Earth. After visiting eighteen planets where humans were killed off by alien environments, they arrive at Navohar and find a small group of survivors who seem surprisingly unhappy at being rediscovered.

When the colonists unexpectedly kidnap Irene's nephew, Mark, Irene abandons her ship and follows with bloody-minded determination, risking exposure to local toxins and starvation. And when she finally catches up to the nomads, she discovers that they are concealing a secret which her colleagues would destroy their world to obtain.

It took a couple of chapters for me to warm to this book, but once I abandoned most of my critical faculties, I enjoyed the story. Irene was convincingly depicted as a middle-aged workaholic who nonetheless has a sense of humour, and for the most part her actions moved the plot. Even the secondary characters were interesting, and their relationships with each other rang true. With caution and provisos, I recommend this book.

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

SearchContents PageSite MapContact UsCopyright

If you find any errors, typos or anything else worth mentioning, please send it to
Copyright © 1996-2014 SF Site All Rights Reserved Worldwide