Are you in the mood for some science fiction? Because I’m in the mood for some science fiction.
Child of Humanity
Author: Dr. Alyse N. Steves
This book was written by an author who runs/ran the Twitter game #MeetAWriter. That’s all well and good, but the author is also a PhD in the sciences (not sure which one), which made me instantly interested for obvious reasons. What kept me from reading/reviewing this earlier was the cover – I just don’t like it. I also don’t really like the title, but I like more esoteric bullshit for titles.
I thought this book was solid, but not perfect. The idea behind it – that advanced aliens can act as doppelgangers (or “Gangers”) to help/hinder less advanced species’ growth – was totally innovative and integral to the plot. It was interesting to see how the narrator(s)’ opinions on the Ganger system changed as more information was revealed to everyone. I enjoyed much of the plot, at least from a global point of view, and there was always tension to keep the story going. The first chapter felt a little off since it didn’t really give you any of the real premise, but once you’re past that, it was a good story.
The writing was also tight and clean. I noticed no grammar mistakes or typos, though I did catch some word repetition and a few key phrases that were overused. There were several paragraphs that contained background or backstory information that I sheepishly admit that I skimmed or skipped, but they were very long and not integral to the story.
The main character, Saira, was usually pretty relatable, but in some ways I disliked that. Though she had trained to infiltrate human society within a manufactured human body, I didn’t really get much alien feeling from her. She was vegetarian and “pacifist,” but neither of those really felt inhuman. None of the aliens, no matter their form, truly felt alien. I also felt weird about how the aliens called themselves aliens, as if they took the perspective of the humans throughout the book. More about this is in the spoilers.
4/5 Discoball Snowcones
Something I look for in books focusing on aliens, robots, monsters, or other, non-human sentients, is this feeling of “other” without the Pinnochio-like desire to become “normal” like the humans in the rest of the story. In the end of Child of Humanity, Saira becomes Sarah and lives her life out as a human. The other Gangers do the same thing, and all of them opt for shorter lifespans in order to be like the people they impersonated. Because the aliens never really felt alien, this desire to become human at the end felt a little off to me. Why, if they’d lived thousands of years with aliens and only about a hundred years with humans, did they develop such strong desire to identify with the humans? The connections back to their home planets and original families felt undervalued.
There were also a couple chapters about halfway through that felt repetitive. The efforts Saira made towards getting her friends to accept her as an alien kept getting reverted, and I didn’t quite understand why the same plot and character progress had to be repeated several times.
Lastly, the part where it’s revealed Jillian was a Ganger of herself, then how she was sent to the Council and saved all of intergalactic space with a 3-day speech didn’t really make sense. It felt like her efforts to save humanity and change the Council’s political direction should have failed if all the other efforts had failed. Most of it isn’t even on-screen.
Next week, we’re pursuing a book I’ve wanted to review for a while: Kevin Parish’s What Words May Come. Stay tuned!