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Karin Lowachee
Warner Aspect, 451 pages

Art: Matt Stawicki
Karin Lowachee
Karin Lowachee's family moved from Guyana, South America to near Toronto, Ontario when she was about 2 years old. After university, she tried various jobs unrelated to writing, before being rejected from the graduate writing program at the University of British Columbia. Offered the chance, she went to Rankin Inlet on the west coast of Hudson Bay where she spent 9 months. Her novel, Warchild, won the Warner Aspect First Novel Contest.

Karin Lowachee Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Interview: Karin Lowachee
Article: The Backburner Book
SF Site Excerpt: Warchild

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Cindy Lynn Speer

Jos Musey is eight years old when his world is destroyed by pirates. He and a few other children are imprisoned, taken off the merchant ship Mukudori. Everyone else, including Jos's parents, are killed. Jos, because he is exceptionally pretty, is kept by the notorious pirate Falcone for his own purposes. Falcone trains him, and does other things that are too terrible to be more than hinted at, things which will dominate him and his actions through out the book. Joss manages to escape, only to be captured by another enemy. An alien people, the striviirc-na and the people of the Earth Hub have been fighting over mineral rights on a moon the strivs have supposedly discovered first. Jos is taken in by their most famous of human sympathizers, the Warboy. Trust comes slowly as he is trained by Warboy and his family to fight, and to use the comps (a type of computer that creates its own interfacable environment of codes and information that one can invade, like a virtual reality). He eventually becomes a spy, shipping out on the Macedon, a huge warship ruled by Captain Azarcon. It is not an easy ship, Azarcon takes the tough but fair rule to the greatest extent. Away from the influence of the strivs, he hears intel that makes him doubt the actions of the people he is spying for. Who in this war is right? Is the man who saved his life nothing more than a slaver? These questions and more will have to be answered before Jos can learn to live with himself, his past and his future.

The principal element of Warchild that colours everything we see is Jos's hinted-at past with Falcone. His inability to trust and his feelings of instability makes it hard for him to make friends or to act with certainty about anything. The relationships he does form are awkward. For example, his relationship with Warboy, also called Niko, is a strange combination of brotherly and romantic love. It's never spoken of -- Niko basically treats him like a much beloved student, but one can't help to wonder if some of these emotions on Jos's part aren't because it's the only way he knows how to show love. This thought creeps into your mind especially after you meet the only other Mukudori survivor, Evan. Evan is pretty honest about the fact that half of his duties on the pirate ship he was sold to were of a sexual nature, and he attempts to seduce Jos out of gratitude mixed with the fact that it's the only way he knows how to get things. Even eight years later, he can hardly trust anyone or stand to be touched. He's always looking to see what a person wants from him; it makes him an incredibly emotionally fragile young man. Aside from that, he is also, oddly enough, a very strong character. He can shoot anything he's handed, and he has an affinity for technology. I thought he made a very interesting and complex hero. He does what he feels he has to, even though he doesn't want to, and that shows more bravery than I think I would be capable of.

The other characters are almost equally interesting. Azarcon, who has his own reasons for hunting Falcone, Niko's brother who clearly doesn't like Jos, Erret Dorr who seems like nothing more than a bully until you look below the surface.

The striviirc-na are an Japanese-flavored race, interesting and admirable. It is little wonder that the symps -- human sympathizers -- are willing to stand by them. They are a calm, intelligent people. I especially appreciate the fact that their flesh is all sorts of colours until they gain their place, or caste, then they are pigmented white and given elaborate tattoos. Karin Lowachee adds other interesting elements that make the culture feel more real, such as the food, the decorations of the houses, and shows them all to be very purposeful to the life of these characters.

I also thought the setting was well done. There is a toughness, a no-nonsense approach to the war, to the ship life. There is no gentleness here, everyone knows that any moment they might be called to fight the enemy. Even so, they all have a very familial feel, and wear the tattoos of their ship with pride. Ship life is well described, and, interestingly enough, Jos can recognize the different ship engines by sound.

Warchild earned Karin Lowachee the Warner Aspect First Novel Award, and I can see why. It's a good book particularly for those who enjoy espionage and deep space adventures with an added psychological complexity.

Copyright © 2002 Cindy Lynn Speer

Cindy Lynn Speer loves books so much that she's designed most of her life around them, both as a librarian and a writer. Her books aren't due out anywhere soon, but she's trying. You can find her site at

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