Julie E. Czerneda,
To Trade the Stars
(DAW, 2002)

Julie E. Czerneda wraps up her splendid Trade Pact Universe trilogy in To Trade the Stars .

Sira di Sarc, a.k.a. Sira Morgan, may be Speaker of the Clan Council, but that won't help her fix the translight drive on Silver Fox, the ship she co-owns with her Chosen, telepath Jason Morgan. Trade contracts have been far and few between as well, and the situation has gone from troublesome to alarming.

While docked for repairs at the remote Kimmcle mining colony, Sira and Morgan learn that their friend, Huido, owner of the fine multispecies dining establishment Claws & Jaws, is in trouble. Sira 'ports to Plexis Station and is immediately drawn into a plot involving Morgan's former mentor, Ren Symon, a young Clanswoman named Ruti who is inexplicably living on Plexis, the Drapsk -- the feather-antennaed aliens who regard her as their Mystic One -- and the recovery of memories long sealed in the depths of her mind.

Czerneda once again uses Sira's first-person narrative linked with a word or phrase to "interludes" which describe, in third person, events happening elsewhere and to other characters. The device works very well and heightens the suspense; the end of each interlude is like a miniature cliffhanger because the next interlude usually shifts to a different set of characters. She weaves in the back story neatly and unobtrusively, providing just enough to prod the memories of readers of the previous books or clue the new reader in to the world she has created.

Czerneda's characters are wonderfully three-dimensional, and the story is laced with humor. She creates the most remarkable aliens and devises extraordinary cultural details. Her writing is bold and imaginative, and she has a tremendous gift for storytelling. Czerneda is one of those writers who understands that the quality of the story does not have to be sacrificed to the technical details of hard science in order to write good science fiction.

She also has a sense for when enough is enough. To Trade the Stars concludes her Trade Pact Universe trilogy and resolves the story. She leaves the writer satisfied, not overstuffed with the same story told a dozen ways, just to stretch out a series. While it is natural to feel regret at leaving beloved characters behind, you can take joyful consolation in knowing that finishing the trilogy means that Czerneda is probably developing a new and wonderful world to visit in the future. To Trade the Stars will sate you until then.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]
Rambles: 31 August 2002

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