My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Assimilation, Love, and Other Human Oddities returns to the alien world of Ondry and human Liam as they have settled into their relationship. The second book in the series by Lyn Gala entertains just as much as the previous book, but in a different way. The first book was more about personal relationships and relied on Ondry and Liam, two different species, figuring out their wants and needs without common language and mannerisms. Now the two are together and doing well but face a threat from a human officer with a hidden agenda.
The story has some action to it and Liam comes into his own as a trader and partner to Ondry, but I couldn’t help noticing the overwhelming philosophical statements about the illogical and irrational behavior of humans. On the one hand this is a continuing story about the main couple and their place on Ondry’s world. They face an external threat in the form of a human, Diallo, and her blundering, missteps. The story is left with something of a cliffhanger and no doubt there will be a third book in the series. I’m looking forward to reading it but my enjoyment dimmed somewhat with this book and I think will decrease even more with the third book. However Gala is an exceptional author and I like the multifaceted plots she offers.
While I really loved reading about the differences in the cultures and agreed with the author and Rownt species about the flaws in humanity, this story reminded me so much of previous science fiction series. For example I couldn’t help thinking of this like the Ender’s Game series where the first book introduces the characters so you are connected to them and care about them while the second book goes into detail about why humanity is horrible and alternate alien species aren’t actually so bad. It’s a different kind of appeal and book, one equally good. While, I can appreciate these viewpoints and agree with them wholeheartedly, sometimes my enjoyment dims when faced with yet another argument that yeah – humanity sucks. I know it and I kind of want to get away from that in fiction. It’s not a criticism of this particular book, or sci-fi genre in general, just more of an explanation of my personal bias.
Here humanity and all it’s problems are offered against a simplistic, much more rational alien species. The Rownt culture is presented as almost a completely opposite alternative where logic dictates behavior. Honesty is more of a sliding scale than absolute and it’s used in both social and financial ways. Liam represents and probably resonates with most readers too as someone that has slowly come around to enjoying and furthermore embracing Rownt culture. His safety and happiness are threatened by the new human but Liam realizes that the differences between the two species will likely lead to unavoidable conflict and he feels he has to try to help. It has a ring of authenticity and urgency that will no doubt be carried into the next book.
It’s an interesting series and I liked the main couple quite a bit. Their relationship is simple, yet complicated and while there is gay sex (gasp!), of a kind, this story is solidly within the science fiction genre, which I love. I’ll happily read more of the excellent writing, complex characters, and nuanced philosophy offered but I do hope the next book dials back on culture bias just a bit. I know it’s there, I know it’s true and I just don’t want to be depressed that I can’t join the Rownt. Highly recommended series for sci-fi fans. I’m curious if this will resonate as well with other readers.