Reviews Logo
SearchHomeContents PageSite Map
Lost In Translation
Edward Willett
DAW, 304 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
SF Site Review: Lost in Translation
SF Site Review: Spirit Singer
SF Site Review: Andy Nebula, Interstellar Rock Star

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Donna McMahon

Lost In Translation As a child, Kathryn's life was devastated when her parents were killed in an unprovoked attack by the alien S'sinn on the human farming colony of Luckystrike. She might easily have grown up in an orphanage, if her rare empathic abilities hadn't been discovered by the interstellar Guild of Translators. Instead, she grew up with the Guild, being trained for the prestigious and critical job of translating between species.

Still, it's hard for Kathryn to forget her traumatic past, so she is horrified when, as her first assignment, she is paired with a S'sinn translator to facilitate negotiations in a smouldering dispute between humans and S'sinn. Her counterpart, Jarrikk, is equally furious. His childhood wingmates were slaughtered by humans, and, in the ensuing human-S'sinn war, his wing was so greviously damaged that he is flightless -- a fate worse than death to the proud, bat-like S'sinn.

If these two colleagues cannot bury their hatred long enough to work together, then surely peace between their two races is a lost cause, and the interstellar Commonwealth will be plunged into war.

This is the set-up for Lost In Translation, a brisk-paced space opera from Regina science writer Edward Willett. And Willett delivers a neatly-constructed plot, peopled with lots of aliens, including a ruthless S'sinn warmonger and a chilling human traitor.

It's decent enough entertainment for newer SF readers, but I found that the book did not keep me engaged throughout. My first irritation was the flashback structure. The novel opens with a prologue in which a frightened and reluctant Kathryn is preparing to translate with Jarrikk; then Willett goes back and fills in nine chapters of background. Having been primed with the suspenseful negotiation scene, I found it difficult to wait patiently through this prolonged set-up.

I'm also not a big fan of Star Wars-style space opera, and I kept wishing that Willett had taken more time to build his settings. For example, he did a good job when he had the S'sinn use "beats" (presumably wingbeats) to measure time -- a scale which seems intuitively right, and well as being easy to use. On the other hand, he didn't bother to consider how a society of winged beings would design buildings. Stairways seemed to me an improbable feature of S'sinn architecture, as did gates.

This is strictly a space opera outing, capably written and with lots of sudden changes of direction toward the end, much like a movie script. Many readers will enjoy it. I simply found that the story didn't have enough character depth to get me emotionally invested in the eventual outcome.

Copyright © 2007 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