How can one not appreciate a story that features not only friendship between humans and non-humanoid aliens, but love as well?
Tula Bane was abandoned and left for dead on the distant space station of Yertina Feray when she was just short of 15. “Brother Blue,” the leader of the colonizing expedition on which she, her mother, and sister were traveling, thought Tula had become too dangerously observant of his activities, and he beat her until he thought she was dead.
After he departed Yertina Feray (unexpectedly, and suspiciously, in a separate ship than the colonists), a couple of aliens on the station found Tula and revived her. One of them, Constable Tournour, helped her get a leg up on survival, even though she would be the only human on the station populated by aliens who did not think much of people from Earth. But there would be no rescue for her from off the station: she found out that the colony ship carrying her family exploded.
Almost immediately, Tula is taken under the wing of Heckleck, an insect-like alien who injects Tula with essential nanites so she can breathe the air and communicate in the Universal Galactic language of the space station. In addition, like a benevolent Artful Dodger, Heckleck teaches Tula how to survive by wheeling and dealing and purveying information.
Three years pass and Tula is relatively successful earning a living as a trader, and maintaining some close friends and allies among these very non-humanoid aliens, including Heckleck, Thado – the caretaker of the arboretum, and Constable Tournour, who always finds a way to help Tula out when she needs official intervention. But it is Heckleck with whom she is closest; as he says about their relationship:
“…liking someone whose species you dislike is something – worth more than currency on a chit.”
Tula is nothing if not adaptable, but she is not content just to live her life out on Yertina Feray. She wants to find Brother Blue, and get revenge. And when three other humans about Tula’s age are exiled to the station bringing news of Brother Blue with them, things begin to change.
Discussion: This is the first of a planned series, and I am very glad about that, because there is much to love about this story. Tula is someone who doesn’t let the fact that most of the life forms around her look like big bugs prevent her from finding friendship and even love. And she is a great protagonist in other ways too. She is flexible, strong, and loyal. She doesn’t always see what is right there in front of her, but her responses seem age-and-situation appropriate. She exhibits some understandable weakness that comes from loneliness, but it seems fairly certain that given her resourcefulness, good heart, and open mind, she will learn how to overcome that deficit as well.
Evaluation: This is the first book of a very commendable series that must be applauded for its diversity, gender flexibility, boundary-pushing, and intelligence.
Published by Roaring Book Press, a division of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, 2014