Julie E. Czerneda’s To Each This World, which will come out in November, 2022, is one of the most thought-provoking, original books I’ve read in a long while. Beginning with humans who enter their own avatar (called an epitome in the book) either to go into space or enter the space portal that is at the center of the novel, to creatures such as the kmet, who are gigantic, sloppy, imperious characters whose mode of thought, communication and motivation are obscure, to the final inhabitants of a distant planet, beings who designed the portals, the characters in the novel push the limits of one’s imagination. The plot is original, its unraveling a mystery, probably not completely solved by the book’s end, and the ideas behind it are mind-stretching. It may be the best job, since Stanislau Lem, of demonstrating that the minds of aliens are likely to be completely unlike our own and difficult, if not impossible for humans to understand.
The plot is riveting. Henry, the Arbiter, whose task is to be the only human who communicates with the kmet, the race that has introduced space portals that allow travel to other planets and who desire to bond with humans in some way, must determine if the kmet’s aim is benign or dangerous to the humans who remain on New Earth. He and Killian, the portal’s pilot, along with a sort-of computer-generated, shape-shifting companion, must visit six planets where New Earth once sent colonists to collect them and bring them back to New Earth before their planets are destroyed by a mysterious force called The Divider. At every turn, Henry and Killian are in some kind of danger and, lurking below the surface is the question of whether The Divider is really the thing they should fear or the kmet, who are urging them to bring all humans back to New Earth in preparation for some kind of merging of the kmet and humans.
The human characters are well-drawn enough for the reader to care about their fate. The mystery remains until the very end of the book. It’s a truly edge-of-your-seat thriller, but with its striking originality of character and place being at the heart of the book’s attraction. I must admit that there is an irritating tendency for the author to use odd contractions and to leave out articles, which could either have been inadvertent or just an idiosyncratic way for the characters to think or the narrator to express herself, but I got used to them and they didn’t detract enough from the story to interfere with its ability to captivate me.
If a reader wants to encounter real originality in a science fiction space adventure, this novel will fulfill their needs. I couldn’t put it down. I’d never read a Julie E. Czerneda book before and didn’t know she was such a prolific author until I finished the book and looked her up (I’d skipped the list of her books at the beginning of the novel). I definitely will be reading more of her work.
Thank you to NetGalley for allowing me to read a pre-publication, uncorrected proof of To Each This World.
What if robots replaced the entire human race? Is that the next evolutionary step for intelligence? For an imaginative, exciting look at this idea read Ezekiel’s Brain, Casey Dorman’s sci-fi adventure.
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