Thousand Names for Stranger by Julie E. Czerneda

Thous Names for StrangerOpen with a man fighting, with an illegal weapon, in the rain, against bad odds, while a cop tries to figure out if he’s got jurisdiction. Cut to a woman who doesn’t remember why she’s running away in an alley, or even who she is. All she has is a compulsion to get off the planet. And there goes handsome but scruffy Captain Morgan of the Silver Fox. She tries to convince him to take him.

The first few pages let us know that we’re in a universe with multiple intelligent species from many words, and the title suggests there are a thousand languages, each with its own word for “stranger.” But does ‘stranger’ mean someone to welcome as a guest, or someone who can be killed or manipulated without moral restraint?

Because this is a novel, it’s not hard to predict that Amnesia-Girl is going to fall in love with Captain Morgan. And he with her. They will have misunderstandings. There will be other suitors for her hand. And there might be a beautiful woman (Sira is rather plain and not curvy at all) who tempts someone. So… yes to almost all of the above, but its still interesting.

The less predictable news is that the man who had been fighting was an old acquaintance of the captain, and tells him Sira’s name – but nothing about her. The slaver who captured Sira gives her a different name. Clearly, identity is an important theme in this book. Then there’s Sira’s last name. She defines herself as Sira Morgan, a relative of Captain Morgan, but is she his wife? sister? aunt? Her relatives who come to claim her insist that she has their last name, and she isn’t ready to accept their right to define her. What about when her memories come back?

The good: check mark
* So many species! Each convinced that only they are right, and every other species just does NOT have good manners. Not only that, they don’t even know what good manners -means-. Hah! You people reading this, you don’t even know how to hold your feathers to show manners!
* Sira gets half the chapters, and the interleaved chapters give us multiple view-points. Cool technique.
* Instead of good-cop bad-cop, we’ve got by-the-book-cop and trust-my-gut-cop, and both have a chance to be right – and wrong.

The Bad:x mark
* I absolutely love amnesia stories and their potential for starting over, but can we do it without the ‘helpless girl/powerful man’ trope? Sira is helpless and ignorant and Capt Morgan magnanimously teachers her everything but how to eat and breathe.
* Evil Suitor loves Sira for her power. Her consent is not even remotely required. Ick. Can we have a different way of demonstrating that Evil Guy is Evil?
* Captain Morgan, Sira, and the cops have to have a sequence together. The plot twist that brings them together is so contrived, I had to read that bit twice to see if I missed something.
* Evil Suitor’s mom is on his side, yawn. Someone who is on Sira’s side is also on Evil Suitor’s side – why? WHY would anyone do that?

baloonThe Double Take:
* That man who was fighting in the rain can teleport. His whole -species- can teleport. And they look just like humans. Eek.
* When women who can teleport grow mentally strong enough, they burn out the men who try to marry them. Wasn’t that the pre-feminist idea of strong women? Species, that’s not such a good idea.
* Finding out who is actually behind Sira’s blocked memory. Really? *croggle*

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