STRANGERS
Melissa McCann

 


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Awe-Struck E-Books, 2002
Reviewed by Joy Calderwood

Science Fiction Adventure, Medical Thriller

Dr. Annia 4424 gets her opportunity to escape when the Federation Spaceship Guardian is attacked by a Commonwealth fleet. As a Federation indentured doctor, Annia is forbidden to do independent research, and what she is researching is vital. The last two outbreaks of century plague scared humanity so badly that even researching it is punishable by death. Only Annia knows century plague is due to return soon.

Annia escapes with the help of two clones, both computer-programmed as expert soldiers. On Yetfurther, the planet where they settle, her conscience bothers her about the two clones: the Federation limited them so carefully in their thoughts and behavior. Annia and her surprising new neighbors Maycee and Cho’en find the means to free them so they can develop their humanity.

Now Annia would focus on her research if she could, but things keep interrupting her. Crime boss Solante and his bullies run the police, demanding “protection” money from everyone and wreaking havoc on those who do not comply. The true protectors of the town are General Baldwin and his vigilantes. Cho’en and Maycee try to stay aloof from this conflict: Maycee is a drug addict hiding from her overly dominating relatives the Charmmes, a powerful family in the galaxy. The Procreationist True Believers breed as fast as they can in filth and crowding, and avoid doctors on the orders of their leader, Mr. Ambrose. They are the obvious population to contract century plague when it returns. Annia and her friends risk everything in an attempt to bring these irreconcilable groups together to fight extinction.

Author Melissa McCann has developed another interesting set of characters. My favorites are the two clones, Tora and Liam. They begin almost as idiot savants, simple and dedicated to following their orders, but each has special skills suited to warriors. As they interact with humans, they learn to use their special perceptions and skills independently, also to integrate their emotions, long dormant, with the purposes they were programmed for. McCann follows the experiences of Liam and Tora with a clear, decided prose that makes them surprisingly believable and appealing.

The Charmmes family is another intriguing invention. A group of outstandingly intelligent humans isolated themselves and, centuries later – after eugenics, inbreeding, and interbreeding with an entirely different species – the Charmmes are no longer fully human. They are, however, very rich and very influential among humans. Annia’s friend Maycee is trying to keep her love and humor alive as she deals with some of the flaws that have crept into the family.

On the surface, the title STRANGERS refers to Annia and “her” two clones as they attempt to fit themselves into life on Yetfurther. Underneath is the true theme: the interaction of groups who think so differently that they can’t begin to understand each other. How urgently will they cling to their differences? Which of them will decide to cooperate, so that century plague can be stopped before it wipes out humanity?

So far as I have been able to find, STRANGERS is Melissa McCann’s earliest book. She has become a prolific ebook author in multiple genres: Her other science fiction adventure, SKIN, was my Favorite Adventure Read of 2004. I especially recommend also her Regency romance HONORIA and her upcoming Regency suspense, DARKE’S FOLLY, due out in December.

Sep 2005 Review

 

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