Lightwing by Tara K. Harper
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Lightwing by Tara K. Harper
This is my second read of this old classic. Old now because it's over twenty years and it still reads well. This reminded me of many of my favorite classics from back in the sixties and seventies and many of those are Robert Heinlein books. This one though had the flavor of a Marion Zimmer Bradley and in particular the Color's of Space. The protagonist is female and a somewhat modified human variant.
Kiondili Wae has some considerable Esper talent that will do her well down the road, but she doesn't yet realize how strong her talent is. She's the underdog fighting her way up alone, because her parents were mistakenly blacklisted and then murdered; although the guild called it a regrettable accident. It left her with minor citizenship with fewer privileges than her peers and having to work hard to earn her education. She has little hope of moving rapidly up the ladder to fair employment, but she's not discouraged because she has confidence in her abilities. She just seems to need better focus.
Kiondili has an Esper ability that has been measured lower than actual and she's treading thin ice because if they find out they might become suspicious that she has excelled in her lessons by stripping the answers from other peoples heads. But that becomes a double edge sword when some job recruiters find this out and offer her a job and wave the normal testing fee she would have to pay. The tester is a Ruvian and they are high in Esper abilities and this is one of many aliens the reader will be introduced to.
If I had one quibble with this book it might be that there are almost too many interesting aliens peopling the story. Still Tara Harper does a great job of keeping them sorted for this reader and she gets high marks for that. The science sometimes almost seems a bit inexplicable, but what is of greater interest is that it is consistent science within the story and it seems well thought out though this reader got a bit lost in it sometimes.
When Kiondili reaches her posting at Corson she discovers it won't be an easy fit right from the start with a handful of alien species, some predatory; and the few species she should be comfortable with end up being the worst to deal with. She'll be Dr. Stillman's assistant and the doctor seems quite nice, but manages to put her right in the middle of an ongoing practical joke battle between the doctor and an alien race, the Dhirrnu, who love to engage in practical jokes. But that's just a mild part of her start at the facility since she's already made the acquaintance of an Ixia who would just as easily make her its lunch, as to take her to lunch.
When her higher Esper abilities are discovered Kiondili finds herself accused of stealing ideas from the mind of a human researcher and she undergoes a close examination from a Ruvian who digs deep into her mind to uncover the truth. Though she comes out exonerated she does not come out unscathed and I thought that Tara Harper did a splendid job of describing what could only be understood to be a mind rape and it's affects on Kiondili.
The science of the story though is about this consortium of aliens and humans who are trying to uncover the secrets to faster than light travel and how Kiondili contributes despite all the stumbling blocks thrown before her.
Even after twenty years this is a solidly good read with fine characterization and a story that grips the reader from front to back. It's a must read for lovers of SF and SFF.
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