by Geoff Rodkey
Overall: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Lan and her family are the last surviving humans after Earth is destroyed. They’ve been living in a colony on Mars but finally struck a deal with the citizens of Choom, a distant planet, to allow them to settle there as refugees. But by the time they get to Choom 20 years later (in suspended animation), the government has changed hands and the new government is completely opposed to the idea because humans are violent and they don’t want any violence or conflict of any kind. They finally agree to let Lan and her family (her mother is the chief negotiator) come down on a trial basis while everyone else stays on the ship. There are three main species: the Zhuri, who are the majority and run everything; the Krik, who have the second-highest population; and the Ororo, who are the smartest. The Zhuri leaders have effectively banned all emotion, and anything that provokes emotion, such as singing, and Lan’s sister Ila won an “America’s Got Talent” type show back on Earth with singing and the humans were hoping to win the residents of Choom over with her skills.
This book raises a number of really interesting issues. One is the very real, very near future of humans destroying Earth, and then what happens? And we could be based on our history of violence as a species and denied asylum elsewhere. Then there’s the idea of asylum seekers as “us” and not “them” which is a change from how it’s generally understood, not to mention the way the humans are shown in the Choom media. Lan and her family are frustrated over and over again by the fake news. And then the Zhuri and their emotion-denying. Wow. You can only clamp down on your own nature for so long before it erupts, and in the end it was Ila’s music that won them over. It would have been a different story if the species were actually completely peaceful, but they were just pretending to be to maintain order, which rarely works.
I was also particularly struck by how the different species’ foods were described. The Zhuri drink a gray liquid that smells revolting to humans, and it is described as an efficient way to nourish them. They also do not create “body garbage” like humans do, which was entertaining. The Krik also eat something gross, but the Ororo eat varied-colored cubes of food that is tasty to humans. The Krik were the first to inhabit Choom, and they were joined by the Zhuri later and then the Ororo. It turns out that there used to be a fourth species, the Nug, but the Zhuri killed them all. So all their claims of peace were not entirely truthful. The reason I docked it a half-star is that the resolution to the conflict came right at the very end, so we didn’t really get to see the humans settling into and enjoying Choom society at all, but maybe there will be a sequel?