Monday, August 25, 2008

Entertaining Aliens

Do you know the old science fiction quandry? That it's hard to come up with an alien who doesn't have something that humans also require, like a mouth? One of the ways to get around that is to base the aliens on different kinds of animal life. For entertaining aliens, I like to read a Stardoc novel, by S.L. Viehl. She has a blog with writing advice called Paperback Writer.

I've told you about my car books before--the ones that come from my friend Amy's mother that I keep in the car so I'm never without a book when I have to wait for a kid. Originally, Amy was passing on these books to me because we were both home with preschoolers and there were months it was hard to get to the library; these were easy reading, even for a sleep-deprived mother of two asthmatic preschoolers. Now she passes along only the best of them, and occasionally I find one I like enough to bring in the house. One of these was one of the first three Stardoc novels, by S.L. Viehl. I don't remember which one it was; often books in a series come out of order from Amy's mom. But after the first one or two, I started searching for more of them on my own and trying to read them in order so some of the continuing plot elements would make more sense to me. This is roughly the order in which I ended up arranging them:

  1. Stardoc (2000)
  2. Beyond Varallan (2000)
  3. Endurance (2001)
  4. Shockball (2001)
  5. Eternity Row (2002)
  6. Rebel Ice (2006)
  7. Plague of Memory (2007)(previously Clanson)
  8. Omega Games (2008)
  1. Bio Rescue (2004)
  2. Afterburn (2005)
  3. Blade Dancer (2003)
So the newest one I've read is Omega Games. Now, it's been years since I first brought a Stardoc novel in from the car, and I find that I've forgotten how some of the continuing plot elements happened and what all they mean in the world of the novel. On the other hand, this is not a series that compels me to go back and figure everything out. There's some stuff about how the main character, the Stardoc, was artifically created and named Cherijo, an acronym for something, and then she found out she couldn't die when she was shot point-blank in the head on an ice planet, but she lost all her memories and now calls herself Jarn. Some of this continues to be important because she and her humanoid husband are essentially immortal, and they're figuring out what this should mean for their daughter, who is mortal. Okay, whatever.

The interesting part of these novels, as I've said, is the variety of alien species and the way the Stardoc relates to them. There's a great romance/scifi mix in Omega Games where Jarn puts on some kind of virtual reality goggles that belong to a humanoid woman and is treated to a recording of foreplay from the woman's tentacled husband, an Omorr: "Prehensile gildrells slid around my throat and into my hair like a bunch of long white snakes, while three muscular pink arms tugged me back against an equally hard body." That's something you just don't get in many other scifi novels--interspecies sexual attraction.

To add to previous descriptions of the lizard-like aliens called the Hsktskt is a being who takes over the body of a Hsktskt while retaining her own identity as a shape-shifter, an Odnallak. The Hsktskt-shaped Odnallak helps Jarn and Reever defeat a "parasitic life-form that invades a host body with its embryonic form" called a Sovant. They also have help from a man with one arm and no legs who has built himself a custom battle drone to fit around his body, and a cooperative and powerful pink slime alien who can never be allowed to reach the next stage of its development because then it would be "virtually indestructible...the gigantic, vicious, mindless, planet-eating bogeyworm of myth."

Also, my favorite alien species in the Stardoc novels is the sentient cat called a Chakacat, although unfortunately none of them say anything nearly as bloodthirsty and self-involved as what I would imagine if a cat could speak!

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