Great little tale. I wish it was longer, but that’s really my greediness. I loved the world and the characters, and wouldn’t mind more. But unlike so many other novellas, the story works perfectly in the space it has. In fact, it packs an extraordinary amount into 100 pages.
I generally find alien abduction stories to be paradoxes of the unpleasant kind: it’s such a great premise, but the books disappoint more often than they satisfy, relying on a short list of overly familiar tropes. (more than half seem to be tales of the mean-ol’-caveman turned teddy bear). My least favorite device are slapstick-style scenes where our unfortunate earthling is humiliated because he or she doesn’t know the language or customs, or else is forced to eat some disgusting food to avoid insulting the hosts (Remember the roast snake and eye-ball soup in the second Indiana Jones movie? Not Spielberg’s finest moment.)
Gala tackles the clichés head-on in a really clever, sophisticated way by making her hero, Liam, a linguist and “xenologist.” Liam and his captor, Ondry spend much of the plot literally debating the meaning of words, for example “rape” in our culture, or “palteia” in theirs, in an effort to make sense of the cultural differences so they can forge a relationship. It actually makes the story far more plausible and thought-provoking, along with avoiding the offensiveness of inviting the reader to laugh at foreigners or aliens for being different.
In a preface, Gala also lets the reader know that she wrote the story to explore her version of an ideal dominant, an idea I really liked. It’s not so much that I agreed with everything, but I enjoyed taking part in the debate (at least passively)--comparing my ideas to hers. I suppose most of us do this anyway, but in stating that outright as her goal, she pushed me to think through my ideas more carefully.
As I hinted, my only gripe was that I wanted more. I dearly hope Gala returns to Rownt with more stories of “palteias” or even just more on Ondry and Liam.