The Wannoshay Cycle by Michael Jasper, Waterville: Five Star, 2008
Warning: Spoilers for the book follow! (Although I think you’re better off knowing what you’re getting into in this case, but that’s just me.)
The Wannoshay, fleeing their dying planet, crash land on Earth, adjusting to the strange culture and climate, eventually integrating into the futurist Earth society plagued by terrorism and drug use. The integration neither goes well nor lasts long – soon the Wannoshay are placed in an internment camp, because they’re suffering from inexplicable fits of angst. But! A band of human supporters have a change of heart and come to the rescue.
I had really been looking forward to The Wannoshay Cycle, which has, in excellent sci-fi fashion, a smoking spaceship crash-landing in the snow on the cover. Aliens crash landing on earth – that always makes for a good story, right?
I’ll read pretty much anything if there’s a character I’m invested in. I thought that character was going to be Father Joshua, even though the reader is asked to consider his heart attack as the only important information we knew of his backstory, and, despite the fact that Father Joshua’s character resembled a Cathlolic priest about as much as I resemble Pete Wentz. Maybe future priests are a lot less priest-like? Or maybe it was just the weak characterization.
But then the horrible, the unthinkable, the worst thing you can do to the early chapters of your story occurred: point of view shift. Noooooooo! I’m just getting the hang of the story from Father Joshua’s perspective, and at next chapter is from the point of view of a random new character! Then we switch back to Father Joshua, and I decide I can settle into alternating POV – but NO! Then we get a chapter narrated by ANOTHER new character. I was starting to feel very distanced from the narrative in only a few chapters.
My problem with the book, beyond the shifting point of view, was two-fold: the author kept the secret of why the aliens were troubled too long – so long, in fact, that I skipped to the end of the book to see what happened; and the story was trying too hard to be a metaphor. Don’t get me wrong, I love metaphors, but I don’t like it when they fall like anvils. In good sci-fi, aliens are often a reflection of humanity, a mirror to our true character. In The Wannoshay Cycle, the Wannoshay are strangers who become objects of our hatred. We wall them up for their protection and ours, and then several characters (surprise, our narrators!) find their own rich heart of compassion and help the aliens. And then it turns out the aliens are broken and dying because they abandoned their own group of strangers! I was unimpressed with the transparency of the plot, and since I was already feeling distanced from the characters, it was kind of a relief when it was all over.
Andrea’s Random Awesomeness Count:
Motherships that suck up scrap metal: 1
Read instead: The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. It also has aliens, priests, and a plot secret, but is much better executed on all counts.