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Survival (Species Imperative) [Hardcover]

Julie E. Czerneda
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 401 pages
  • Publisher: Daw Books (May 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0756401801
  • ISBN-13: 978-0756401801
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 16.1 x 3.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 6,033,568 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Biology/evolution Hard SF 1 Jan 2012
By Gabe
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This is the first novel in the "Species Imperative" trilogy, but it really stands alone very well, and is probably the strongest of the three. (I read and very much enjoyed the two sequels as well.) What makes Czerneda's novels stand out from the usual Hard Science Fiction (i.e. SF where the science takes centre stage, both in plot and characterization), is that the science in question is not physics, engineering, or medicine, but biology, specifically evolutionary biology. (There also a lot of archaeology in books 2 and 3.)

The protagonist--the willful, uncompromising Mac--is a biologist; she studies salmon populations and migrations on Earth, and has almost no interest in anything outside of her very narrow field. The first part of the novel is set on a marine research base, and presents a gloriously lively, colorful and convincing picture of life in a scientific institute. You can feel that the author has science in her blood, as evolutionary theory comes to be essential to a problem which comes from far away in alien space and galactic history, but threatens not only the Earth but all the civilized Universe.

I don't want to summarize the plot here, just to say that this book is very entertaining, readable, impressively rigorous, gripping, and contains possibly my favourite alien species from any science fiction. I recommend it unreservedly.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scifi at its best 5 May 2014
By Miss Z
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
As a biologist I often get annoyed by science fiction that is obvioulsy not well-researched. This one is amazing - totally plausible world and aliens.
As a feminist I often get annoyed at gung-ho macho scifi, and ones that carries with it lots of predjudices from our world. This book is completely different - characters are who they are, people - not gender stereotypes.

Super-cool, super-interesting and super-exciting. Leaves you thinking about it a long time afterwards.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.9 out of 5 stars  47 reviews
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Science Fiction for Scientists 12 Oct 2004
By David B Richman - Published on
I used to read a lot of science fiction. I picked up new copies of the various pulp sci-fi magazines and a correspondent sent me his old copies. I especially liked GALAXY, FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION and later ISAAC ASIMOV'S SCIENCE FICTION, but I occasionally read ANALOG as well. I also read the novels by numerous sci-fi authors, including Asimov, Heinlein, Herbert, Norton and a host of others. I don't read much of that genre these days because of time and the fact that while there was always a lot of schlock out there (as there is in any book type) it seems like many sci-fi books these days are take offs on movies or TV shows (I have a possibly snobbish dislike for such made up books).

However, after reading Julie E. Czerneda's "Survival: Species Imperative #1" I may be hooked again. Here is a sci.-fi. book actually written by someone trained in biology. Yes, I know that the space travel involved probably does not have much of a scientific base (Isaac Asimov once said that one needed such devices just to make plots work), but the depth of the work keeps the reader turning pages. While I have my doubts that we will ever (or at least in my lifetime) find aliens like the Dhryn or the Ro, they are fabulous constructs by someone who at least has a handle on how weird living things (even on this planet) can be.

The book centers on one human- Mackenzie Winifred Elizabeth Wright Conner (Mac to her friends) and one alien- the Dhryn Brymn. Mac is a biologist who studies salmon on the Pacific Coast; Brymn is an alien archeologist from a species that mostly has little use for science. Add a "spy" named Nikolai Piotr Trojanowski, a Quechua biologist named Emily Mamani Sarmiento, worlds along a inter-stellar transport line being stripped of every living thing, and of course the seemingly ever present and possibly malevolent Ro, who are invisible and thus not easily understood, and you have a fascinating experiment in imagination- the "what if" that hooked me on science fiction in the beginning.

The ending, which is far from obvious until almost the last 20 pages or so (although it starts to become somewhat plausible a bit earlier), leads us into both the light and the dark recesses of the mind- both of human and alien.

This is a very good read for those who like a bit of meat in their sci.-fi. I'm looking forward to other books by this author!
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Combine Intelligence and Culture with Biology: Stir Well 21 April 2005
By Sharman Horwood - Published on
An excellent book! Julie Czerneda, winner of Canada's Aurora Award, has created a unique tale where the principles of biology underscore the essential mystery of the story.

Dr, Mackenzie Connor, known as "Mac" to her colleagues, is a research biologist, specializing in salmon spawning. Unfortunately, her research is disrupted by a visiting Drhyn, looking specifically for her. Brymn is giant, alien and blue (Ms. Czerneda is known for her ability to bring aliens to life on the page, and she succeeds again here; Brymn has a sense of humour, he is enthusiastic about his specialty and interests, he even lies when he thinks he should, to her and to his own kind--which all sounds very human, but his motives are entirely alien). He is an archaeologist who is investigating a series of disappearances occurring along a space lane which leads to his planet as well as to others. At one end of this lane--a wormhole-like technology that transects areas of space, enabling faster-than-light space travel--is the Chasm, a region of space where planets have somehow been denuded of life in the past.

Mac knows very little of this, but Brymn's visit triggers a series of incidents that draw her directly into the mystery: another alien species tries to kidnap her in the night, a human bureaucrat arrives who seems to be something other than what he claims to be, and intruders invade the living/research space of her base on the Canadian West Coast. For the sake of her species, and herself, Mac finds that she must join Brymn in his search for answers, and eventually leaves Earth in this quest.

But this novel isn't about an ordinary quest. It deals with the far-reaching issues of biological determinants in people who are otherwise intelligent, even among Mac's own colleagues. One of my favourite lines in this novel is Mac's response to a textbook on alien reproduction: "Nature found the most ridiculous ways to propagate. Adding intelligence and culture to biology seemed only to compound the issue, not simplify it" (p. 273).

This level of perception about living beings, including those not of this particular world, is what gives this novel its own life. The journey Mac makes is that she learns more about what constitutes being human, as well as alien, in her experiences off world.

Since the story hasn't finished with the end of this novel, I truly look forward to reading its sequel.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard science fiction and exceptional characterization 6 Jun 2004
By Midwest Book Review - Published on
Julie Czerneda's Survival is a rare blend of hard science fiction and exceptional characterization. Biologist author Julie Czerneda creates unusually believable aliens in her stores, and this first novel in a projected series 'Species Imperative' is no exception, building entire races and moving scenarios as it tells of an Earth scientist caught in interspecies struggles.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great world (and species) building, hackneyed romance. 6 April 2007
By frumiousb - Published on
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I will echo the compliments of readers who are pleased to see an approach to new species which at least feels reasonably grounded in science. As world-building, Survival was great. The Dhryn and the Ro are fascinating and feel real-- it is clear that there will be a lot of material to mine as the series progresses.

It was unfortunate that Czerneda does not have quite as much skill with her character relationships. The fiesty female who somehow falls in love with the handsome-but-obnoxious man has been done more or less to death. I did not feel any tension around the relationship, but it was foregrounded too firmly to really be a side note. Unfortunately, this flaw grated on me through nearly the entire book.

In the end, however, I was entertained. I certainly plan to read more in the series.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Slow But Enjoyable 1 May 2006
By DRob - Published on
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Survival by Julie E. Czerneda is the first in the Species Imperative Trilogy about a mysterious eradication of clumps of civilization throughout the Interspecies Union. The book focuses on Mac, a biologist at an oceanic research center in the Pacific Northwest at some point in the future. Mac's a workaholic scientist, interested only in one thing, the study of salmon.

Her placid little world is interrupted when an unwelcome visitor arrives, a member of a species, the Dhryn, which has never set foot on Earth before. Yet, this member, whose name is Brymn, has not only come to Earth, but he insists on visiting Mac. The study of biology is forbidden to the Dhryn, but Brymn is an archaeologist who has noticed a strange pattern in the mysterious eradication of several colonies and he believes Mac is the only person who can help him prove that the attacks are related to the ancient enemy of the Dhryn, the Ro.

Mac resolutely refuses to get involved, preferring to remain on earth to continue her studies, until a nighttime attack results in the capture of Mac's best friend and fellow scientist Emily. An Interspecies Union representative, Nik, convinces Mac that she is also in danger and Mac ends up traveling with Brymn to the Dhryn home world.

If this all sounds confusing, it is, and I had to read the first few chapters a couple of times, and then constantly refer back to them until I had everything straight in my mind. There are long interludes of minutia broken up by fast and furious action passages, however, I really did enjoy the book and had a hard time putting it down.

I liked, first of all, the depiction of the scientific research engaged in by Mac and the other scientists in her community. I also like the way that she and Brymn slowly developed a very close relationship and friendship, and how when Mac is finally forced to leave her beloved research station and is subjected to long periods of boredom while serving as a "guest" of the Dhryn, the biologist in her studies the Dhryn in an effort to learn as much about them as possible.

I also liked Mac as a character-- again, she fits the stereotypical scientist, concerned only for her research, but beyond that, she exhibits a fierce sense of loyalty, and a social awkwardness that is rather charming as she tries to puzzle through the attraction she feels for Nik. I also like the way that even when all evidence points to the fact that Emily has betrayed her and is working in concert with the Ro, Mac manages to keep an open mind-- again, a trait of a true scientist.

I did not mind the interludes of minutiae as much as many of the other reviewers of this book because I actually enjoy reading about people's day-to-day activities. To me it was a pleasure to read about how Mac tried to stay alive when the Dhryn failed to provide her with water, and it was fun reading about how she inadvertently invited Dhryn scientists into her quarters to experiment with her food preparation. I appreciated Czerneda's attention to detail and the fact that she took the time to tell us about all these processes rather than buzzing rapidly through them to get to the action scenes.

The ending of the book was a complete surprise to me-- I was in no way prepared for what happened, and I found myself feelings as bereft as Mac in the final pages of the book. Once again, however, I did have to read the ending a couple of times before I figured out exactly what happened-- I would have appreciated it if Czerneda could have spelled that out for me a little more clearly. It's ironic that she takes her time in writing every detail of daily life, but when it comes to the climax of the book, she spends a mere two pages on it.

If you are looking for an action book, you will probably not enjoy this book. But if you are looking for a book that deals with the complexities of interpersonal relationships, not just between humans but also between humans and aliens, AND if you appreciate science, you will probably enjoy this book. You might want to keep a notepad handy, however, for jotting down the key points in the first few chapters because otherwise, you'll find yourself having to refer to them repeatedly throughout the book.
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