Steve North,
(BFE Press, 2010)

Mauria is a world with two intelligent species: the highly industrialized Maurians, who were the original species, and the Vuervee, who were genetically engineered by the Maurians as a food source. The result is two extremely different peoples. The Maurians are a stocky people with minimal hair, that is typically dark. The Vuervee are slim, wiry and covered with hair or fur of different colors that are often vivid and brilliant.

The two peoples also have two very different cultures. While the Maurians live on the plains in their highly mechanized and automated city, the Vuervee live in the wilderness of the hills, valleys and mountains surrounding the plains. The Maurians pride themselves on their technological prowess and they not only ignore the pollution they have created but have grown to see it as a positive, while Vuervee worship nature and lives their lives according to the Circle of Life. The Maurians are obsessed with social status and titles, while the Vuervee are very family- and clan-oriented. The Maurians are constantly scheming for social dominance; the Vuervee seek harmony.

But there are two threats to both peoples. First, the Vuervee are not numerous enough to meet the food needs of the Maurians in the long run. Second, a Maurian hunter fell in love with a Vuervee woman (gasp!) and children resulted.

Will the Maurian-Vuervee children offer an answer to the problems of both species? Are these the only such children? Who will ascend to the highest rung of the Maurian social ladder? Can the Maurians find a way to survive without using up all the Vuervee as food? Can the Vuervee find a place to be safe from Maurian hunters? Can the two peoples find a way to live together, and maybe even help each other?

I would not call this book either fast-paced or slow, but the story does move along steadily until its too-abrupt ending. Word usage is good, albeit not exceptionally so. The originality of the book lies in two areas: premise and character development.

The premise is interesting, with two diverse intelligent species with vastly different cultures. However, it bothered me a little that the first species, chronologically, would genetically engineer an intelligent species for food. Why? Just to make the hunt more thrilling? If so, that speaks to the sadism of the Maurians. Of course, without a second intelligent species, the major storylines of the book would be meaningless.

For character development, the author created three sets of credible characters: the Maurians, the Vuervee and the hybrid children. There is diversity within each group, but also cultural commonalities. For the hybrid children, the author wrote each one as predominantly from one species, but with aspects of the other.

Although a work of fantasy fiction, this book also stands as social commentary. The Maurians are caricatures of Western industrialists, capitalists and materialists, with classicism thrown in. The Vuervee come off as representing the aboriginal peoples of Earth's different continents in idealized form. The moral of the commentary, as I see it, differs from what is often seen today, with the capitalists being evil and the aboriginal people good, although there is some of that flavor. Instead, the lesson seems to be that being extreme in either direction is self-defeating, and the best result comes from the two groups working together and learning from one another.

book review by
Chris McCallister

2 April 2011

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