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A Thousand Words for Stranger
Julie E. Czerneda
DAW Books, 366 pages

Thousand Words
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, from biology texts to the use of science fiction to develop literacy. Her next SF novel, Beholder's Eye, about a somewhat accident-prone shapeshifter, has been purchased by DAW Books with a tentative publication date of Fall 1998.

Julie E. Czerneda Home Page interview
A Thousand Words for Stranger excerpt

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Jim Seidman


A Thousand Words for Stranger is Julie E. Czerneda's first novel, although you wouldn't guess this from her amazingly competent writing. Czerneda has created a very compelling and entertaining story.

The tale takes place in a future where a wide variety of species (including humans) have formed a trade pact regulating interspecies commerce and other dealings. One of the few species that has declined to enter the Pact is known only as the "Clan," a people who look human but have powerful mental powers.

The protagonist of the story is Sira, a Clanswoman. While walking on a backwater planet with a Clansman for an escort, a gang attacks her, and she must run for her life. Normally, surviving such an incident would be no problem for someone with the powers of the Clan. Unfortunately for Sira, she has no memory of who she is, what the Clan is, why she is on this planet, or anything else. All she has to go by is a set of strange compulsions in her head urging her to do certain things.

Feeling a compulsion to get off the planet, she hooks up with Morgan, a human trader who agrees to get her off-world. This is hardly the end of her problems. She and Morgan must dodge a pirate who desperately wants to kidnap and ransom her, Sira's Clan relatives whom she no longer trusts, and Trade Pact Enforcers who are suspicious of everyone's motives in this affair. Through it all Sira tries to piece together what has happened to her and figure out how to use the mental powers she forgot she had.

As the story progresses Sira grows closer and closer to Morgan, in what reads almost like a romance. This causes problems as well, as the Clan is incredibly contemptuous of other species. As Sira learns more about the life she led before losing her memory, she starts to realize the difficulties implicit in an interspecies relationship.

Despite the futuristic setting -- with spaceships, aliens, and the like -- this novel reads as much like fantasy as science fiction. The power of the Clan is so akin to magic as to be indistinguishable in its effects. The story is compelling enough that both science fiction and fantasy fans will probably enjoy reading it.

Copyright © 1997 James Seidman

James Seidman is a busy technology manager, who needs the excuse of doing book reviews to give himself time to read. He lives with his wife, daughter, two dogs, and twenty-seven fish in Naperville, Illinois.

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