Julie E. Czerneda,
Changing Vision
(DAW, 2000)

Julie E. Czerneda continues the story of Esen, the shape shifting Web-being, in Changing Vision.

Fifty years have passed since Esen and her human friend, Paul Ragem, went into hiding, an action that cut Paul off from his family and friends who believe he's dead. Paul takes the name Paul Cameron, Esen takes the form of a Lishcyn named Esolesy Ki, and the two form an export business on Minas XII, a planet in the Fringe. After 50 years, business is good, and Paul and Esen have created new lives for themselves.

When Esen reluctantly agrees to accept the gift of a vacation trip, she hardly expects to be thrown into the center of interplanetary conflict -- interference into which has always been forbidden her. Nor does she expect the Feneden -- the "new" alien race eager to set up a trad route -- to be a threat to her existence or Paul's. In the days that follow, Esen musters her wits constantly in order to keep them both alive.

Complicating their situation is their pursuit by Lionel Kearn, Paul's former commander, who has spent the previous 50 years tracking the Esen Monster. Kearn's determination to salvage his mission may interfere with their plans, but at the same time, Kearn manages to get in his own way more often than not.

As usual, Czerneda keeps the various plot threads going at a furious pace, keeping the reader guessing and engaged. She supports the plot with vivid, three-dimensional characterizations, including most of the less savory characters.

The reader is treated to Esen's perceptions -- and limitations -- as she transforms into a variety of alien species, and this variety is one of the hallmarks of Czerneda's rich imaginative power. Whether the large but lofty and elegant Lishcyn, the sleek-carapaced Panacian, the oozing Ycl with the far less than finicky appetite or any of the other forms she dons, one senses that each species is uniquely developed."

As Czerneda's readers have come to expect, the book is laced with humor. No character is permitted to take him or herself entirely too seriously, and as always, the humor leavens the serious elements without undermining them. Some of the episodes are laugh-out-loud funny, but I'm not giving anything away. Through it all, the reader understands that Esen is not only called upon to change her vision according to species, she had to change her own perceptions and expectations. Best of all, Czerneda implies that there is more in store for Esen and Paul -- let's hope so!

Changing Vision is another enthralling read from Julie E. Czerneda -- don't lose sight of it.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]

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