Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Sunwake, in the Lands of Teeth, by Juliette Wade

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(SF) Liaison Rulii must travel into a war zone to find a missing human linguist whom his king wants to meet in just three days. (21,736 words; Time: 1h:12m)

Rating: ★★★★☆ Sophisticated, Entertaining, Moving

"," by (edited by Neil Clarke), appeared in issue 127, published on .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Background: The dog-like natives on Arrus are divided between the larger Aurrel and the smaller Hnnwan (barbarians). The Aurrel are subdivided between the Heavy-furred rulers from the north and the short-haired serfs, and the physically smaller barbarians.

“Colder” means more formal and more dignified. Cold language is how superiors speak to inferiors. The cold language involves a certain amount of howling, which is symbolized by repeating the first syllable of names and other words. E.g. Ru-rulii.

Rulii is a rare successful short-hair, but he serves at the King’s pleasure. The war between the Aurrel and the barbarians has been ongoing for many years, with the short-hairs taking most of the casualties. There has been a sort of peace since the arrival of the humans, and the King doesn’t like that, since the war threat is a big part of how he keeps control of the short-hairs.

Pro: The strength of this story is the characters, who are clearly depicted, sympathetic, and easily distinguished from each other. Each character has his/her own objectives:

Rulii wants to use his influence with humans benefit his people. He’s a good-hearted person, as witness the efforts he goes to to save young Dazh, who turns up on his door dying. By the end, he’s won freedom from the heavy-furs, he’s renewed his friendship with Parker, and he’s found a former friend long believed dead.

Parker wants humans to treat with the Hnnwan, not just the Aurrel. After great risk, he gets what he wants.

The Nose wants an end to the war and she wants her people to have a fair share of whatever technology the humans are bringing. She earns that by supporting Rulii and Parker.
Dazh just wants to be a hero. By going to get help after he’s kicked out of the meeting with the king, Dazh gets his wish.

The representation of the alien languages works very well and adds a great deal to the feeling that these creatures actually are alien.

Con: The pieces don’t quite fit. No one ever asks Dazh how he got injured. His story seems entirely unrelated to everyone else’s. There’s been no hint that the short-hairs are ready for revolution. Dazh himself was all eager to go to war for the Majesty just pages before he betrays him. Parker is supposedly in trouble for calling for a shuttle to evacuate him, but earlier in the story, Rizvi suggested it herself.

The Nose is too quick to resort to violence when her initial discussion with Parker doesn’t go the way she wants it to. It's quite a jump from bragging about your glassware to threatening the human envoy!

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Juliette Wade Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB, FreeSFOnline

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2 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. This was extremely enjoyable, with an excellent portrayal of alien cultures.
    In some ways it felt like a heroic fantasy, with a fast pace and quick changes of direction.

  2. Pretty cool culture since it was alien yet relatable by being modeled on dogs.