Sunday, May 24, 2020

No Sister of Mine

Jeanne G’Fellers
Completed 5/22/2020, Reviewed 5/22/2020
4 stars

The title of this book is a little misleading.  It doesn’t signify that it’s science fiction when, in fact, it’s very much science fiction.  It just sounds like regular lit.  I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I was pleasantly surprised by the book.  It’s fun, exciting, and romantic.  It’s very well written.  Even though some of the scenes at the very end are a bit laughable, I found it very engaging.  In the course of reading so many LGBTQ+ books, I’ve been surprised at how many of the books written by lesbians for the lesbian community I’ve been able to enjoy and appreciate.  A few have been not very good, but this one was a real joy to read.  I loved the protagonist, found the antagonist to be deliciously evil, and thought the plot was pretty original.  This book was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award for Sci Fi/Fantasy/Horror in 2006 and won another award for lesbian literature. 

On a distant planet, human colonists intermixed with the indigenous humanoids, the Autlachs.  The new race was successful, but sometimes an albino girl with telepathic powers would be born.  Deemed a witch, the girls would be shunned.  Eventually, they formed their own community, the Taelachs, and would gladly take every new albino child born from an Autlach family and place it with a loving Taelach couple.  LaRenne is one such child.  She’s raised by two Taelachs, one of whom is the powerful ruler, the Taelach of All.  When she grows up, she joins the Kimshees.  (Yeah, I know it sounds like Kimchi) They are a bit like a Taelach army.  Her first mission is to do reconnaissance on two renegade Taelachs who have escaped from prison for committing atrocities and are hiding on the planet’s moon.  There she finds unexpected love and terrible danger.

I loved LaRenne.  She had a very quirky personality.  She’s very young and short for a Kimshee.  She’s pretty headstrong and has a lot to learn.  However, she’s assigned to a very dangerous first mission where she has to go undercover as an Autlach.  She’s quick tongued and sassy, which makes her fun.  But then the danger escalates, forcing her to survive on her wits and her unusually strong but unrefined telepathic powers.  Just as interesting is her mentor and eventual love, Krell.  (This isn’t a spoiler as part of their first encounter is excerpted on the very first page of the book).  Krell grows from being a harsh teacher to impassioned lover through the course of the book.  So by the time you get to the climax, you are right there with the immediacy of her love.  I found it very romantic.

On the baddies’ side, Cance and Brandoff are pure evil.  Cance is the more developed of the two, having a larger role in the book.  Brandoff is a vicious amoral, but Cance is the real psychopath.  She’s much more calculating and delusional than Brandoff.  When LaRenne goes undercover to find the two of them, you know things are going to go awry.  Cance is just too intelligent and paranoid for things not to unravel for LaRenne.

I thought the plot was pretty imaginative.  It’s basically a space thriller and love story.  The thriller part is exciting.  The love story gets a little hokey in the end, but enjoyed it.  Still, I found it to be original in its concept and well done in its execution.  It’s not very prosy; it’s mostly dialogue driven.  I thought the dialogue was realistic for the most part, and conveyed the thrills and the horrors very well.

I give this book four stars out of five.  The year it was nominated for the Lammy, it had tough competition.  I read four of the five nominees and I think I gave all four of them four stars.  It was a good year for lesbian genre lit.  I think this is a good beginner novel for someone just starting to read science fiction written specifically for the lesbian community.  Trigger warning:  there is a very realistic rape scene.  Even though it’s not graphic, it’s violent and disturbing. 

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