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Page history last edited by RichiesPicks 10 years, 7 months ago

26 July 2002 WARCHILD by Karin Lowachee, Warner Aspect, April 2002 (Mass Market Paperback)


I'm a novice when it comes to science fiction. I know plenty of students who walk around with those fat paperbacks, and when I used to work at the bookstore I certainly sold plenty of them--both in hard and softcover. Therefore, I sort of know what science fiction looks like, but I couldn't even give you a definition of the genre.


After being totally absorbed in reading WARCHILD for a couple of days, I located an online interview with its author, Karin Lowachee. In it she talks of being influenced by C.J. Cherryh and Maureen McHugh. Of course! At least one of those names sounds vaguely familiar from shelving boxes of new stock years ago...


Like I said, when it comes to science fiction, I'm a novice.


Furthermore, I'm not really keen on books (or movies for that matter) with lots of violent battle scenes.


So, why then did I find WARCHILD--a work of science fiction (actually published for adults) which was well-stocked with violent battle scenes--impossible to put down? And why do I think it's a great book for young adults?


I was captivated by the vividly drawn young main character Joslyn Aaron Musey as well as the four complex adults who are his most influential teachers: the pirate, Falcone; the alien sympathizer, Nikolas-dan (a.k.a. Warchild); the deep space ship captain, Cairo Azarcon; and Corporal Erret Dorr. I guess it all comes down to the fact that no matter how many aliens and high tech weapons you jam into a well-written, politically savvy, coming of age story, it's still a well-written, politically savvy, coming of age story. Or, perhaps, I'm much more of a science fiction fan than I ever knew I was. The brilliance of WARCHILD has certainly opened me up to that possibility.


The book has an unusual and powerful opening: Part I is told in the second person as the author plunks us down into the body of eight-year-old Jos just as Falcone's pirate ship, the Genghis Khan, attacks and destroys Jos' home--the merchant ship on which Jos' parents are stationed. Taken by Falcone, Jos spends a year in virtual isolation as the pirate trains, teaches, and intimidates the young boy. Falcone is then audacious enough to dock at the EarthHub station, Chaos, where several government spacecarriers are also docked, in order to treat the boy to a birthday celebration. As fate would have it, an alien ship chooses the occasion to attack. In the initial commotion Jos jams his dessert fork into Falcone's hand and runs for the nearest exit. Falcone, who has promised to shoot Jos if he attempts any such thing, tries to carry through on his threat in the midst of the battle going on:


"Way down the dockring, almost out of sight from the curve of the walls, a small explosion went off at one of the locks. You hauled yourself up, moving slow in the rush. Your head pounded and smoke stung your eyes. You held your arm and tried to veer toward one of the carrier ramps.

"Then new faces poured out of that blown lock.

"They weren't human. They were tattooed, with skin in colors you'd never seen before on a face except as a mask. They shot at the soljets, sharp bright pulses. The soljets stopped boarding, knelt behind cargo bins, loaders, and ramps, shooting back in stiff streamers of bright red. It was a noisy station festival, full of light and color, except people were dying. Merchants and Chaos citizens caught in the cross fire fell.

"You froze. You had never before seen an alien. They came closer around the dockring, moving with the precision of skill and focused aim. They wore long outer robes that fluttered behind them, as if they were flying. None of the soljets paid attention to you now. "Someone grabbed you over the face. You recognized the smell of the hand.

"You bit. He released you and you ran straight into the platoon of soljets ahead of you.

" 'Drop the gun!' one of the jets yelled.

"Falcone might've been chasing you. You didn't look. You ran as fast as you could. People screamed at you to stop and get out of the way. An alien face looked at you from across the decreasing distance of jet-occupied dock. The eyes were completely black.

"A fist slammed into your back and threw you to the deck. The last word you heard wasn't one you understood.


"That was all I remembered about Falcone. It was enough."


The choices and challenges Jos faces through the following years periodically threaten to rip him in half. The politics of the prolonged interstellar war are reminiscent of many of today's international conflicts--fighting over resources with accompanying deceit and doubletalk on both sides. Falcone, who had once been a spacecarrier captain, but had acted so autonomously in deep space as to be discredited and jailed before political allies broke him out, makes me think of the great British explorers such as Drake who were so far from the homeland that they acted on their own and were considered pirates by most of the world.


Smart and with a lot of heart, WARCHILD is great science fiction for young adults--whatever science fiction is. I know Jos is a kid who is out there, just waiting to be born two hundred years from now.


Richie Partington




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