Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Stephen Leighs Speaking Stones is a continuation of the story begun in Dark Waters Embrace. The action is set about a century after the earlier novel, and nearly all of the characters from the first book have left the scene. Their influence, however, is still strong, especially the influence of Anais, the earlier novels main character, and Geeda Dominic, Anais antagonist.
By setting the story later, Leigh is able to examine the cultural changes which have grown out of Anais discovery of her own mutation and its cultural and biological significance. The humans have reinvented their society and have formed a mutual culture with the Miccail natives. The only exception is the Allen-Shimmura family, once led by Geeda Dominic, now led by Euzhan, whose life Anais saved in the first novel.
Despite its continuation of the first book, Speaking Stones stands quite well on its own. Leigh provides the characters with all the information they need, either through Euzhans memories or entries from Anais journals which serve a similar purpose to Gabrielas journals in the first book. Furthermore, Leigh fills in the events of the intervening years with a series of detailed appendices.
Speaking Stones is a novel about prejudice and hatred. Just as Dominics hatred poisoned the community in Dark Waters Embrace, its influence is still felt through Euzhan. However, Leigh claims that the other families have accepted the new community Anais founded and the Miccails. He never shows this acceptance, only showing the enmity of the Allen-Shimmura family which seems to set the tone for the entire community.
Because the Miccail and the humans have begun to establish a mutual society, the aliens are not quite as strange in Speaking Stones. Their actions can now be understood better in human terms. At the same time, the Miccail are as divided as the humans about their acceptance of the new order. In fact, a group of the Miccail, the QualiKa, have been rising up occasionally since the time of Anais in an attempt to eradicate the humans from the face of Mictlan.
For their own part, the humans have managed to establish themselves more fully. Although their numbers are still low, the mutation rate has stabilized and the infant death has decreased, in part due to the societal changes brought about by Anais. Sex no longer occupies as important a place in society as it did in Dark Waters Embrace.
Speaking Stones is a reasonably straight allegory for the racial and sexual bigotry which damage our own society. Leighs portrayal of the alien Miccails and the mutated humans make the novel worth reading, especially as people are blind to the benefits they are rejecting based on simple real and perceived differences..
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