Two months after finishing Flesh and Gold, I decided to have a date with my old nemesis.

Yes, it’s time for another telepath story. Lisanne Norman’s Turning Point is yet another sci-fi book I purchased in the 90s that was never read because it involved telepathy, but I survived this encounter. While reading I thought more than once that this would have been a book I’d have devoured back in highschool when I was a Niven junky, and soon would have plowed through each book in the series if not for that one stumbling block. What drew me to it in the first place was the human/alien interaction, and that the featured aliens (known as Sholans) appeared cat like, something I was into at the time thinks to Niven’s Kzinti and all of the spin off books about them. Further intrigue came from a romantic relationship between the female protagonist and one of these aliens. So I bought it back then, and as it turned out while digging the book out of my collection, the next two in the series as well. I have no memory of buying the latter two, so I was amused and surprised to find them.

There are more aliens than the cats. The antagonists are semi reptilian, flat faced, pallid skinned beings known as Valtegans. So yes, they look like Voldemort. We only see them early in the book and near the end, but they are mentioned as background from time to time. They’re portrayed unpleasantly, killing without regret and even bringing in others for personal procreation if you read between the lines. I do hope in later books that at least some of them are seen in a better light as I hate monochromatic characterization among species, like Brian Jacques tended to do in Redwall. It’s hard to believe ever member of a species is the same, unless they’re clones, but even then it could be argued that each clone could branch off into its own being depending on upbringing. Humans certainly are widely varied. We never see enough of the Valtegans to really know however.

At least the Sholans are shown to have great variety in personality. If the author does one thing well, it’s characterization with her protagonists, even with a POV that tends to hover outside of any one character’s head. The deeper we go into the story, the more often the camera tends to pull back. Even then we really feel these characters, both emotionally and physically. Wounds make the reader wince, frustrations cause tension, and feelings of love lift the spirits.

Where she excels with character, the world tends to take a back seat. It’s disappointing when the most striking part of the environment comes from coffee. The characters drink it often, including the Sholans who have their brand of it that lacks the potency of ours. Outside of drinks there’s a swamp with some dangerous critters and buildings with lifeless interiors, but otherwise she spends little time immersing us on this alien planet.

As for the telepathy, only a few members of each species can use it, and each treats the members of its respective species differently. The problem with Carrie, who is our leading lady, is that she had a twin who shared the gift with her and Carrie could feel all of her pain. Her sister however felt none. It lead to her taking advantage of the situation and a miserable life for Carrie. She nearly dies right at the beginning of the story when her sister is killed by the Valtegans. That’s no spoiler. Eventually she saves the wounded Kusac, a Sholan and fellow telepath, and they begin to bond in that way throughout the story. There’s more to their mental link than simply being able to communicate. Carrie instantly learns Kusac’s language through it, she finds she can help him heal, and more. The link seems to have a mind of its own, and while this isn’t explained much, it’s what pulls them together emotionally and locks them together to where they would die if separated too far. This makes their love seem a bit cold and manipulative. While I do believe they do love each other, that feeling of it being false lingers. I hear Norman gets into the power of the link more in future books. Hopefully it doesn’t take a Phantom Menace approach to explaining. Sometimes it’s better to leave things a mystery.

I still don’t care for telepathy as a plot device much but I’m tolerating it.

It’s a good read if you enjoy character driven works. Most of the plot involves Carrie and Kusac learning about each other and their species. Little happens in the way of action and adventure until the final chapter, and when it’s over it feels like only half the story has been read. This is unsurprising since the other books are about two to three times longer. Overall it feels undeveloped but still well written.

Here’s the book:

 

I’ll likely return to the series later, but for now I have other books to read that need to stop collecting dust. The dragons are calling.

***1/2 of *****

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