Monday, April 16, 2012

Twin-Bred by Karen A. Wyle

Mara Cadell is a human scientist on Tofarn. Like every other human, the Tofa, Tofarn's indigenous inhabitants, are a mystery to her. But it's become clear that humans and Tofa are on the path towards conflict if a way of communicating and mediating disputes isn't found. She begins the LEVI project, named after her long-dead twin (who she has kept alive in her mind), in attempt to forge a bridge between species. Human and tofa children will share a uterus and be raised together, in an attempt to create mutual understanding.

Twin-Bred has an interesting premise, but that's where my appreciation of the story ends. Each chapter opens with a snippet of one of Mara's reports on the LEVI project, but Karen A. Wyle may as well have written the whole book in report-form for all the excitement it engenders in readers. The book is written in such a flat, clinical way that I was unable get excited about anything that happened. I was praying for war just so some suspense would be created.

I'm a master at suspending my disbelief, but the plot had so many holes that I just couldn't pull it off for this book. I cannot accept that humans and Tofa are still so ignorant of each other after several generations of co-habiting the same planet. I cannot believe that a random science experiment is the first real attempt at communication. It's just stretching belief too far. Wyle has underestimated her characters and the people who make up her fictional world. If they're smart enough for interstellar travel, they're smart enough to know that good communication is the basis for their survival on Tofarn.

As for characterization, there's both too much and not enough. It seems as though every test subject in the LEVI project gets a chapter. But most of these characters are nothing to readers; readers don't care about them. It becomes painfully monotonous reading the dry conversations between these filler characters. And don't get me started on the authorial choice to create such a terribly boring species as Tofa. They have no facial or body expressions, they don't have sex, and they don't seem to form personal relationships. What kind of entertainment value can a book with Tofa making up half the cast of characters have? There are some moderately interesting characters (Mara, and two of the human host mothers), but you only get to see them on occasion, and they don't really seem to grow or change over the course of the story; their interactions are almost as lifeless as the Tofa's.

If I had been editing this book, I would have told the author to pick a few characters and chronicle their lives during the project, so that readers could see the difference between human life, Tofa life, and twin-bred life, and have the chance to form an emotional bond with the characters. I didn't get to speak to the author, but I do get to speak to you, and I say pass over this one.

Copy source: provided free by the author
Genre: science fiction
Format: e-book

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