Tuesday, March 22, 2011

At Cross Purposes

Novelette by Juliette Wade

A corporate-controlled human terraforming expedition makes first contact with some very unique, otter-like aliens. Things go rather poorly, but Lynn, an engineer, has a chance to smooth things over, and maybe prevent the warrior-caste of the giant dancing otters from deciding to wipe humans out of space. If she can overcome the stupidity and overreactive secrecy of her corporate superior.

And in another, equally interesting viewpoint, one of the scientist otters wants to prevent the military from taking control, arguing the humans are sentient and need to be studied. The way language is used implies the thinking of the otter aliens, as we see more clearly for getting their point of view. It's a unique society, and I love the idea of their Pattern Purpose.

As I'm coming to expect from Wade, she gives us an original way of looking at language, backing up an original alien culture, and exciting politics within the foreign culture. This story is much higher stakes for humanity, and I love how much we are almost all screwed by obstructive bureaucracy.

It's an exciting novelette, and I really really really enjoyed reading about the alien culture here. But it's tough to accept exactly how stupid and petty Doris was. Wade establishes this on page one, so it isn't really a surprise. But it is constantly a surprise how far she takes it. Doris isn't just obnoxious, she's vindictive to the point of inter-species incident, needlessly cruel, petty, and quite literally too stupid to live. I wish she'd been written just a tad more reasonable. Or I wish Wade had killed her off, somehow. But that is part of the point I suppose. Really really stupid, obnoxious bureaucrats who almost get everyone killed don't go away.

Ranting aside, it was a delightful ending, I loved the aliens, and I loved the story.

4 otter-alien dance parties out of 5.

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