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Looking Through Lace [Kindle Edition]

Ruth Nestvold
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

As the only woman on the first contact team, xenolinguist Toni Donato expected her assignment on Christmas would be to analyze the secret women's language -- but then the chief linguist begins to sabotage her work. What is behind it? Why do the men and women have separate languages in the first place? What Toni learns turns everything she thought they knew on its head.

Originally published in Asimov's in 2003, "Looking Through Lace" was a finalist for the Tiptree and Sturgeon awards. The Italian translation won the Premio Italia for best work of speculative fiction in translation in 2007.


"'Looking Through Lace' by Ruth Nestvold is terrific science fiction. I want to read more of this writer's stories."
- Andi Shechter in January Magazine

"... 'Looking Through Lace' by Ruth Nestvold [is] an intelligent, complex story illustrating the difficulties of learning and understanding the nuances and intricacies of an alien language and culture, particularly one so similar to our own that we persist in viewing it (wrongly) on our terms.... The reason ... why there are so many differences between the languages of both men and women are logical and well thought out, and the final revelation about the true nature of the relationship between the women and the men comes as a nice twist."

- Phil Friel in Tangent Online

"Two strong stories stand out from the rest of the fiction. Ruth Nestvold’s 'Looking Through Lace' rests on a relatively simple reversal or secret, but the rest of it is solidly written and convincing. The main character is a young female xenolinguist named Toni -- she is called to a planet named Christmas to study the Mejan culture. Nestvold presents a neat puzzle, and she takes the time to present it just-so."

- James Schellenberg in Challenging Destiny

About the author:

Ruth Nestvold’s short stories have appeared in numerous markets, including Asimov’s, F&SF, Baen’s Universe, Strange Horizons, Realms of Fantasy, and Gardner Dozois’s Year’s Best Science Fiction. Her fiction has been nominated for the Nebula, Tiptree, and Sturgeon Awards. In 2007, the Italian translation of her novella “Looking Through Lace” won the “Premio Italia” award for best international work. Her novel Flamme und Harfe appeared in translation with the German imprint of Random House, Penhaligon, in 2009 and has since been translated into Dutch and Italian. She maintains a web site at

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 266 KB
  • Print Length: 70 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Ruth Nestvold; 2 edition (23 Feb. 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004P5NSKA
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #179,089 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Since about the age six, Ruth Nestvold wanted to be a writer (besides wanting to be a singer and an actress and President of the United States), but for too many years she put practical pursuits first and writing fiction second. After completing a Ph.D. in literature and working as lecturer and assistant professor at the University of Stuttgart and the University of Freiburg, she took time off from academic pursuits to attend the Clarion West Writers Workshop, a six week "boot camp" for writers of science fiction and fantasy. She learned more there than she could have dreamed possible, changed her priorities, and gave up theory for imagination. Two years later, she sold her first short story to the acclaimed science fiction magazine, Asimov's. Since then, she has sold over forty pieces of short fiction to a variety of markets, including Baen's Universe, Strange Horizons, Scifiction, F&SF, Realms of Fantasy, and several year's best anthologies. She has been nominated for the Nebula, the Sturgeon, and the Tiptree awards. In 2007, the Italian translation of her novella "Looking Through Lace" won the "Premio Italia" for best international work. Her novel Yseult appeared in German translation as Flamme und Harfe with Random House Germany and has since been translated into Dutch and Italian. It is now available as an ebook in the original English. It was followed in June 2012 by the second book in the Pendragon Chronicles, "Shadow of Stone" ( She taught creative writing for a semester at the University of Stuttgart, participates regularly in online writing workshops, and founded the Villa Diodati workshop for English-speaking writers of speculative fiction in Europe. She maintains a web site at

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good old fashion science fiction 11 Jun. 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
With so many writers churning out series of books each one worse then the one before it makes a nice change to read something so well written and so good.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.3 out of 5 stars  34 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful world, and the virtues of hard work 30 April 2012
By H Waterhouse - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I like how much easier it has gotten for me to read novellas. Yay for ebooks, because I never read Asimov's.

I thought this highly polished story was a perfect example of how to work through one's own expectations. At first, our viewpoint character arrives on the planet Christmas, expecting pretty much what people told her. She got invited because she is the only female xenolinguist available, and it appears that the women have a second language that the men don't use.

She does all the things a sophomore expert does -- starts figuring things out, falls for a local, gets squashed by her boss, the usual. The twist is when she starts using her linguistic skills to tease out the cultural differences between what she has and expects, and what is actually going on.

I spotted the twist coming, but that didn't ruin my enjoyment watching her figure out what was going on.

Read if: You like watching people have to re-evaluate their assumptions, your are having a bad week with your boss.

Skip if: Linguistics scare you - you don't have to understand the details, but they are a big part of the story. You were hoping for a full book.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great sci-fi story from Nestvold. 26 Feb. 2012
By Kriti Godey - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
"'Looking Through Lace" 'is the story of Toni, a xenolinguist who is assigned to work with a first contact team. She's been relegated to doing grunt work until now, and is really excited for the opportunity to prove herself.

The alien world in '"Looking Through Lace" 'is fascinating - although the inhabitants are descended from humans, they have a unique history and culture. The women speak an entirely different language among themselves that the men are not allowed to learn, and Toni is determined to figure out how and why that happened. However, she has a jealous senior colleague and the affections of an attractive native (who just happens to be in a group marriage) to contend with.

I enjoyed reading a science-fiction story by Nestvold; all the other work I've read by her has been fantasy. She keeps up the excellent worldbuilding and characters. I found the revelations concerning the history of the world very interesting. The antagonist xenolinguist seemed like a bit of a caricature, but the interesting alien world more than made up for it.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great sci fi novella, strong female protagonist, nice surprising twist! 22 Mar. 2012
By Christina (Ensconced in Lit) - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition
I won this novella from a member giveaway on librarything in exchange for an honest review.

Looking through Lace is a book about discovering alien languages, and how a language is set up can reveal so much about a culture.

I really liked the protagonist, Toni. She was strong, not to be bullied by the antagonist. I will not reveal the secrets of this book, but as a woman, I really enjoyed how things turned out. I thought the book was well written, and written by someone who loves and understands languages. I also loved how the title is a perfect one for this book.

This is a delightful gem for anyone who likes science fiction.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Enjoyable 20 Mar. 2012
By Lucy Ditty - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This was a compelling and fascinating story. Toni's challenges on Christmas relate to more than just a new experience in her career. Beyond the sheer intellectual fascination, she deals with the emotional component of a team member's hostility and the evolving relationships with the planet's residents.

The story is well written and flows easily. The author strikes a good balance in terms of the amount of background information and Toni's task; we are given enough to keep us from feeling lost or uninterested, but not so much as to detract from the larger story. Toni grows in strength and confidence over time in a believable and consistent way. The central issue is handled well without belaboring the point, raising questions but not beating the reader over the head with rhetoric.

Technically speaking, it's called a novella. Speaking simply as a reader, I would call it a short story. The one error I noticed was a single instance where the culture name was spelled "Megan" rather than "Mejan." I enjoyed it very much; this sort of story is exactly why I frequently pick up SF anthologies.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very enjoyable read!!! 14 Mar. 2012
By Athenajewel - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition
The plot of this novella centers around Toni, a xenolinguist who finally gets her big break being assigned to a first contact team exploring an alien planet. After landing on the planet, we see the team struggle to understand both different languages and cultures and even gender roles in society. I loved this novella, I wish there was more of it! Highly recommended!
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