December 2003
2003 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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Storyteller by Amy Thomson
Ace / Penguin Putnam Trade: ISBN 0441010946 PubDate: 12/02/03
Review by Lucy Schmeidler

384 pgs. List price $ 14
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Storyteller is the story of two people, an old woman known as Teller, who has acted as godmother to the human colony on Thalassa for close to 500 years, and Samad, the street orphan she tries to help and reluctantly adopts, when he makes it clear he doesn't want to be adopted by a loving normal family.

Teller and Samad first meet when the street urchin listens to her public recitation and, embarrassed that he has nothing to give her in payment, he steals a loaf of bread to give her.

Like others of Thomson's books, Storyteller features a well thought out alien species, and relates the interactions between humans and non-humans that change the lives of the protagonists, human and other, and affect all the planet's inhabitants for the better. In this instance, the alien species are "harsels," huge, whale-like sea dwellers, who communicate through singing and telepathy.

Through Teller's stories, Thomson reveals the history of the human settlement, which followed some years after a lone Pilot crash-landed on Thalassa, entered the first symbiotic relationship between human and harsel, and planted human-edible fruits in orchards scattered among the islands. The resulting culture varies with the ethnic backgrounds of the groups of settles, but it is generally peaceful and democratic and, after a forceful chastening by the harsels, is fully respectful of the natives' needs.

Teller's tales are both interesting in themselves and planned to influence her audience, providing whatever advice or instruction they may need at the time. Samad is fascinated, and starts telling stories himself, only to be found out by a member of the Storytellers' Guild, who first scolds him and then helps in his training. But neither of them know Teller's secret, until she tells Samad.

Well written, serious, and beautiful. The two human protagonists, Teller and Samad, are portrayed with sensitivity and love, as is Abeha, Teller's harsel companion.

2003 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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