Author: Julie E. Czerneda
Series: Stratification #1
Genre: Science Fiction
Rating: 5/5 stars!
The Overview: In the first book of the Stratification series, set in an earlier time in Czerneda’s Trade Pact Universe, the Clan has not yet learned how to manipulate the M’hir to travel between worlds. Instead, they are a people divided into small tribes, scattered over a fraction of their world, and prevented from advancing by two other powerful races who control both technology and terrain.
Aliens begin exploring the Clan’s home planet, upsetting the delicate balance between the three intelligent races. It is a time, too, when one young woman is on the verge of mastering the forbidden power of the M’hir-a power that could prove to be the salvation or ruin of her entire species…
This is easily one of the most unique books I’ve ever read, which is no surprise considering it’s by Julie E. Czerneda. The Stratification series was the only main sci-fi trilogy from her that I hadn’t read yet – I’d been kind of saving them for a rainy day because I knew they were going to be top-notch. And you know what? Reap the Wild Wind gave me everything I hoped for and more!
The setting for this one kind of reminded me of the wonders of Pandora in Avatar. Czerneda created a complete ecosystem with all sorts of interesting flora and fauna. The jungle was so vibrant that it almost became a character within itself. The amazing thing is that the jungle is just one aspect of the epic world building within this book. Her descriptions of the world were beautiful, but it was more how the main character interacted with it that really brought it to life. It takes unique skill-sets and strong characters to survive in such unforgiving climates, and I don’t think I would’ve enjoyed reading about the Om’ray quite as much had the setting not been such a big influence on their lifestyles.
The aliens introduced in Czerneda’s books are easily the most memorable things about them. To be honest, I find most of them absolutely delightful, and marvel at how believable and realistic each species is… and there are so many of them! It’s their differences, specifically how un-human they are, that makes them fascinating, hilarious, and sometimes even downright terrifying. Furthermore, the oddities of each species are incredibly well thought out, expanding to include biological influences and cultural histories and norms. It’s so well-conceived it blows my mind! What’s even better is that this is the second series I’ve read from Czerneda where the main protagonist isn’t even human. That’s a tricky thing to do well, but I found her no less relatable, and perhaps even a bit more. The cool part is that it gives readers a unique opportunity to examine our own species through the eyes of others, and really appreciate all wonderful things humanity has to offer. Czerneda manages to do all of that without sugar-coating the depth of depravity to which our species can also sink. It’s all a bit profound, if you ask me…
It just speaks to how good of a writer Czerneda is. All of the wonderful examples of craft aside, my favorite thing about her is her ability to find the humor in any situation. With every one of her books, I find myself laughing constantly even though her complex storylines and emotional conflicts are as far from comedies as you could possibly get. All of her books contain some sort of struggle for survival, and the lengths to which the characters go to to save themselves or their species are what makes these stories feel so epic… but they’re still always funny as shit. Part of it is her amazing way with words, but the other part is her ability to create and capitalize on some very bizarre situations. I love it.
There’s a reason Czerneda is my favorite science fiction author, and I have yet to find anything about her books I don’t love. For the longest time, I couldn’t figure out whether The Beholder’s Eye or Survival was my favorite book from her, but now Reap the Wild Wind is definitely in strong contention!
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