The Measure of the Universe, by Ellen Larson

the-measure-of-the-universe-by-ellen-larson coverGenre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Savvy Press
Published: 2002
Reviewer Rating: two and a half stars
Book Review by Lynn Nicole Louis

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It’s almost a century into the future and Earth has been host to alien Negami from Aldebaran for some time. The aliens are mostly observers, refusing to share any of their advanced technology while Earth stalls and diverts the Negami’s own requests to conduct research. But time is running out and the UN Commission on Negami-Earth Relations has decided to permit the aliens to finally undertake a study.

Aisha Thanau is professor of paleography who’s offered a challenge she can’t refuse: host a Negami archaeologist eager to study ancient inscriptions and the history of human written language. Titek is the wide-eyed and seemingly naive alien who arrives to study under Dr. Thanau’s wing. And while he’s studying the history of human written communication, she’s supposed to study him. Yet are both of them pawns in a political game, a game that could threaten Earth’s relationship with the Negami.

The academia presented here is convincing–Ms. Larson either knows what she’s talking about or she’s done a convincing job at faking it. Titek, the alien, is an endearing character, though perhaps a bit too childlike in presentation for someone from such an advanced species. His naivety felt unconvincing, since the Negami have made a vocation of traveling from planet to planet and studying aliens. I doubt that we Earthlings could pull many surprises they hadn’t already seen.

The Measure of the Universe is a short work, novella in length, quickly, easily, and enjoyably read, perhaps too quickly and easily. Love blossoms, conspiracies unfold at breakneck speed and the story didn’t so much end as just stop. In the afterward, Ms. Larson gives us a brief treatise on the legend of Prometheus, which her story is supposed to be a retelling of. Perhaps it’s obvious to academics, but the parallels went right past me until I read her afterward. As to the ‘gift’, it seems to me that it’s not one Dr. Thanau is going to be able to pass on the way fire was.

I recommend it, but with reservations. It’s well done, but very intellectual–it’s certainly not for the more adventure-minded readers out there. I’d like to see Ms. Larson expand her story and dig into the political ramifications that might arise after the–to me–abrupt ending. She’s established a fertile set-up–one could extrapolate that the fate of two species is now at stake. Dr. Thanau is an interesting heroine, one I wouldn’t mind reading more about.

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