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REVIEW: Skythane – O.E. Tearmann


O.E. Tearmann just gave Skythane an AMAZING review.

As a reader, you feel a lot like Jameson does stepping off the shuttle: you’re entering a whole new world, but it doesn’t take long to sweep you up in its events. You won’t get answers to every question you ask, but you will get an awful lot of beautiful scenery, some amazing moments and a boots-on-the-ground understanding of this universe that slowly unfolds around you.

The layered and delicately nuanced cultures and the interactions between them are a delight to behold. Each culture and the people it shapes have their own tales and traditions, their own priorities and their own cultural blind spots. They’re like tributary lakes feeding into one another: if you are inside one it is deep and full of intricacies, but to the otter who sees it from the vantage point of another lake it’s just a pond. The writer has done a masterful job of showing us both the surface as it appears to an outsider, and the rich secrets hidden within.

Throughout the story, the conflicts, divisions, reunions and slowly building accords between these cultures are consistently plausible and entirely satisfying. As a bonus, nicely designed flora and fauna have been created to keep we readers immersed in a living, breathing ecosystem. I know a good bit about horticulture, and the fact that the color of the sky has correctly dictated the color of the foliage made me unreasonably happy.

I enjoyed the descriptions of interaction and learning through our access character, and really was pleased to read all the little details that go along with a culture of winged hominids and the issues it brings up: for example, the awkward moment during a meeting between humans and skythane when both parties realize that the wrong chairs have been supplied, and half the group can’t sit down on account of their wings. I’ll admit, I snickered loud enough to annoy my cat right there.

The LGBT issues are nicely worked into the arc of the story, causing no ripples in the flow. In fact, they’re so well worked in that I had to go back and note the easy acceptance of tweeners (nonbinary folks) and triads, bookmarking those points for future mention. Now that’s clever. By the time we get to non-human and non-binary aliens who use three gender pronouns, I didn’t even blink. Very nicely done there.

I love seeing stories that show current cultural hangups done away with: we need more examples of what it looks like to win that fight. Oh, and the sex is hinted at just enough to get your heart beating, without sidelining the story. Always a plus. This is a world that makes us expand our concepts of what it is to be ‘alien.’ Perhaps a stranger is simply a friend you haven’t met yet. You guys know I have a long reading list. Well, I cheated on it to finish this.

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