on 1 March 1999
I was hooked from the very first page. Wentworth wastes no time in transporting us to a strange and inscrutable desert planet. The action starts with a bang, but skillfully interwoven with telling details about the planet, which provides a seductive, gritty, and sometimes surprising backdrop for the fiendishly clever plot. The twists and turns, enjoyable in themselves, add up to a fascinating story as the protagonist, alien-born but raised on Earth, sets out to unravel the riddle of his childhood kidnapping from his home world, and the possible religious significance of the color of his fur (yes, fur). Wentworth manages to get inside the minds of her characters, even the aliens, in a very satisfying, and sometimes hilarious, way. (For example, an alien using a radio communicator addresses her interlocutor contemptuously as "box," since that is what the radio looks like to her.)
Emotionally jolting and intellectually satisfying, "Black On Black" is a worthy successor to the "Dune" series and the tradition of literary off-world science fiction. I highly recommend it.
on 15 February 1999
Rescued from slavers, raised among humans, the alien Heyoka must return to his birthworld and regain his place in Hrinnti society. Nebula nominee K. D. Wentworth does a masterful job in giving readers a multi-faceted view of an alien society, its strengths and beauties, warts and foibles. Indeed, Wentworth's particular genius is a wholeness of vision: even the darkest character is shown to have a glimmering of light, whether it is the tenderness in the vicious priest Rakshal's instruction of the cublings or the beauty in the songs of the nihilistic Flek invaders. Such touches, however, never stand in the way of Wentworth's killer plot, full of devious twists and stunning action scenes. Like the young hero of STAR WARS, Heyoka learns that the fate of countless worlds rests on his search for self.
on 18 January 2006
Heyoka Blackeagle was stolen from his own (alien) kind when but a cubling, rescued and raised by a Native American Indian, and then trained as a combat soldier fighting against the fearsome Fleck. Although alien races are known of by humans, Heyoka’s particular race, the Hrinn, are an unknown quantity and it was not easy for him to find the planet of his birth. Now he is back on his home world, with his human partner in arms Mitsu. But discovering his origins, fighting for acceptance, understanding his destiny and even battling an unexpected threat to the planet and potentially this section of the universe is a whole lot more than Heyoka thought he was signing up for when he came home.
Hrinn are not human, as much as Heyoka might wish that he more closely resembled a human, and the alien quality of the race and the planet is for me the strongest element in the book. It takes it a step above other first contact type tales. Conversely it also meant that I had to take a little more time to understand and come to grips with the Hrinn in general, and also Heyoka himself, as Heyoka was the bridge between alien and human. The Hrinn live violently and to a degree savagely, and their way of thinking and coming to terms with the world they live in is not an easy one. It does require a bit more effort to feel a connection with the Hrinn side of the story – and at least initially this is opposed to Heyoka’s story and thus the central character of the book.
However, once the characters were distinguished and given a role inside my head, I found I really enjoyed being submerged in this alien world, and cheered as Heyoka worked desperately towards both preserving the best of it, while also bringing the race of his birth to a place where they could develop and grow into something more.