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Beholder's Eye
Julie E. Czerneda
DAW Books, 565 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.

Julie E. Czerneda Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: In the Company of Others
SF Site Review: Ties of Power
SF Site Review: A Thousand Words For Stranger
SF Site Review: Beholder's Eye
Excerpt: A Thousand Words for Stranger interview

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Donna McMahon

Esen-alit-Quar is a shapeshifter -- the youngest of six, who are the only shapeshifters in the galaxy. These virtual immortals live camouflaged among the sentient races, always guarding the secret of their existence.

Until Esen slips up. On assignment to study the planet Kraos, Esen makes the unexpected discovery that the xenophobic Kraosians are plotting to slaughter members of a galactic first contact expedition. When she is imprisoned with a human male named Ragem, Esen reveals herself in order to save his life -- an action which puts all the members of her web at risk, and may even trigger inter-galactic war.

This novel by Julie Czerneda is what I mentally dub a "Star Wars bar scene" style of space opera, with dozens of alien races trading and fighting across interstellar space. Czerneda handles it well, in a style reminiscent of C.J. Cherryh. Her alien races have peculiar physical and social traits that distinguish them, and the twist of using a non-human protagonist who must convincingly pass as a member of each race adds extra interest to events.

Of course shapeshifters must have limitations in order to keep the story interesting, and Czerneda sets up a clear framework of rules for Esen. Most of her constraints are logical, and while a few struck me as being conspicuously contrived, Czerneda at least sticks to her rules and keeps them consistent. Her characters are nicely portrayed -- not very deep, but heck they're mostly aliens and this is a space opera.

If I had been writing Beholder's Eye, I might have re-ordered the first few chapters so that background was filled in via flashback after the primary action of the novel got rolling, but this is a niggle. Once this story starts moving, it maintains a swift pace, with Czerneda piling on plot twist after plot twist, while the stakes constantly rise. This very competently written action-adventure novel kept my attention right to the end.

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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