Monday, June 3, 2013

Meeting the Alien

     “Do you have a wife back home?” the Queen asked, still looking at Edison but directing the question to Piyopok. 
     “I am neither he nor she,” Piyopok sparkled.  “When I am old, I will return home and spend a few years caring for the children of others.  When my time comes, I will become my own children.”
     “How will you become your own children?” the Queen asked.
     “I will divide into parts,” Piyopok sparkled.  “Each part will become a new Gek.”
     “There will be two of you?  Three of you?”  The Queen pondered aloud.
     “Not really,” Piyopok said.  “Each will have a vague memory of me, but will not be me.  I fondly remember my forebear Guyopol, but I am not Guyopol.”
     “How remarkable,” said the Queen.
     “Your highness, be assured that how you reproduce is equally remarkable to me,” Piyopok sparkled.
-- From “Edison Wedge and the Gek”

We meet two distinct species of interesting aliens in two new young adult stories from Jon O. Neher.  In the novella “Edison Wedge and the Gek” human civilization is slowly recovering from the collapse of the oil economy and the effects of global warming. Edison Wedge is a naive young man from a backwater town who gets a job on a cattle drive that will take him to Fort Franklin, Canada. An economic center, Fort Franklin is visited every 440 days by the Gek, a race of interstellar traders, who buy ordinary goods from Earth and provide exotic items in exchange. Edison learns the ways of the big city and becomes a translator for the aloof Gek, developing something akin to a friendship with a particular Gek named Piyopok.

Edison’s rise from humble circumstances to a career working for the Gek traces a Horatio Alger trajectory, until disaster strikes, disrupting his comfortable life. His fellow humans lie, steal, and kidnap, and the sphinx-like Gek aren’t always reliable, either. Edison’s path has a few bumps until opportunities open out in new directions in a satisfying ending. This is just the sort of story bright young readers are looking for: a lively adventure story with fascinating aliens set in a future full of possibilities.

The novelette “The Froon Cycle,” by the same author, concerns an alien species that travels by spore across the vacuum of space and, finding an amenable environment, grows into an entire community of alien frooners, complete with its own customs and culture. On Earth, they find favorable conditions living in places no human would want to live. The story observes the frooners’ sojourn on Earth over several decades from a variety of human perspectives. Eventually the frooner reproduction cycle fails and there will be no more generations of frooners. They turn to humans for help.

Told with a dry sense of humor, the story resolves in a manner that follows naturally from what we have learned of the frooners.

Neher’s stories recall the early work of Larry Niven, with exotic aliens and an unyielding internal logic underlying the events of each story. These stories are evidence that a promising career awaits this new writer.

Both stories are available as Nook ebooks:
Edison Wedge and the Gek by Jon O. Neher
The Froon Cycle by Jon O. Neher

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