Sunday, August 16, 2020


Since 1997, award-winning Canadian author/ former biologist Julie E. Czerneda has shared her curiosity about living things through her SF and fantasy novels, published by DAW Books. Her latest fantasy is the standalone The Gossamer Mage (2019), out in paperback fall 2020. Currently, Czerneda’s returned to her beloved character, Esen, in her Web Shifter’s Library series, featuring all the weird biology one could ask, with Mirage out August 2020 and Spectrum, spring 2021.

Czerneda applied the Page 69 Test to Mirage and reported the following:
From page 69:
“May we have the room for a few minutes, Ally?” Paul asked.

“Sure. I’ll see if Henri needs a break.” She shrugged off her smock, hanging it on a hook next to the lab coat I should be wearing. “Wind’s picking up.” Ally nodded to the horizontal slit of window near the ceiling. I felt she’d understated the situation. Snow was going sideways in a white moving wall.

“That it is,” Paul acknowledged. “Thanks.” He closed, then locked the door behind her. “Lionel, if you’d order food for our guests?”

The other Human nodded, going to the com.

Lambo would resist, loudly and with colorful profanity, any sugges­tion he put together food trays for strangers, defined as anyone who hadn’t had the dubious pleasure of begging for food in person from the Carasian. I angled my ears to get the full benefit.

I’d underestimated the guile of our administrator. “Lambo, I may be going to the Sacriss System shortly and wish to reacquaint myself with their palate and preferences. Please prepare me a sample of food items suitable for Sacrissee and have them delivered to Paul’s office immedi­ately. If you can do it.”

“At last, a worthy challenge,” came the answering joyful bellow. “You neglected beverages. I will include those too.”

When Lionel turned off the com, Paul said what I was thinking. “Nicely done.” Then a sharp, “What’s wrong?”

For Lionel was staring at the panel. “There’s an alert. A request to the collection from your office. How—”

They looked at me.

Conceivably my fault. “Evan might have seen me enter my code,” I confessed, tail sliding between my legs. “In the Chow last summer.” If so, he’d an excellent memory for his kind.

Paul— who’d an exceptional one, particularly for my missteps and their consequences— merely chuckled as he stepped up to tap the in­terface controls. “I’ve authorized the request. Shunting it and the re­sponse here.”

We listened to the collection’s recording of the Sacrissee’s request.
I always find this an fascinating exercise, to sample an entire book via a specific page—that isn’t the first or last. Will it work? In the case of Mirage, page 69 offers a splendid peek at what this book is about, including several main players.

You meet Esen (the point of view character) in her Lanivarian form (google Portuguese Podenco for a sense of her shape, but add an almost Collie tail). There’s a reminder of two important staff members of the All Species’ Library of Linguistics and Culture (Ally and Henri), and even if you haven’t yet encountered the giant Carasian (think lobster-esque) operator of the food dispenser? From this you’ve a good sense of why grabbing snacks can be complicated. You see how well Lionel has settled in as administrator—and that the earnest young diplomat from earlier books, Evan Gooseberry, continues to play a big role. I adore writing Evan.

You also witness the dynamic between Esen and Paul, her best and first friend. Esen, with the best of intentions, is prone to impulse. Paul is there both as teacher and supporter.

All as you glimpse the Library in action, for the Sacrissee have arrived in crisis. If they can’t find their answers here, they may be doomed…

All on page 69. Who knew?
Visit Julie E. Czerneda's website.

--Marshal Zeringue