Hidden In Sight, by Julie E. Czerneda

hidden-in-sight-by-julie-e-czerneda coverGenre: Science Fiction
Publisher: DAW
Published: 2003
Reviewer Rating: four stars
Book Review by Michael E. Picray

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Hidden In Sight, by Julie E. Czerneda, is the third book in her Web Shifters’ series. As with any book that is third in a series there is a certain amount of back-story and retrospective information that you need in order to understand what is going on. In Hidden In Sight that information is skillfully woven into the story throughout the beginning of the book. As she gives her characters depth and defines their interlocking relationships, Julie E. Czerneda slowly and gently leads the unsuspecting reader toward a plot cliff, then ruthlessly throws them off as they go on an intense journey through plot and counter plot, danger and complex intrigue. Like food items, the characters in the book are drawn from the safety of the pantry, thrown into the pan, and then dumped on the fire as they are hit with one misfortune after another.

In the beginning of the book, shape-shifter Esen-alit-Quar and her Human “Web” are ruthlessly attacked. As an unknown enemy drives Esen and her main companion, Human Paul Ragem, into hiding, their situation forces them to become isolated from their organization. One of the costs of assuming another species’ shape is that Esen is also bound by its limitations. Her reactions to those limits are sometimes amusing and educational, and sometimes problematic since, as the youngest of the former “Web of Ersh,” her relative lack of age is also reflected in any species she assumes.

Although third in the series, Hidden In Sight has the capacity to stand alone. Between the covers of this book is a complete story that will not leave you wondering who the characters are, nor what they are doing. This book is also one of the few I’ve read lately that encourages the imagination and puts the sense of wonder back into the genre of Science Fiction. On one of the planets they visit, mass transportation is a “busfish”, a huge fish that has been trained to ferry people from one place to another on seats temporarily installed in its mouth. But, lest you get too complacent, it remains possible for the passengers to become semi-permanent residents of the busfish’s alimentary system! You’ll want to hold on to your seats and pay close attention as the busfish heads for the deeps!

Like a series of cascading waterfalls, the end of the book provided successive emotional shocks that left me with a deep sense of the rightness of the ending. I found Hidden In Sight to be a satisfying read. You’ll also find good advice to live by in this book. My favorite line was, “Less fudge and more time running.” Even if the rest of the book were not as good as it is, this advice alone would be worth the purchase price.

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