In The Color of Distance, Survey biologist Juna Saari is left for dead on an alien planet after her team's flyer crashes into the jungle. She is rescued by the previously unknown sentient aliens known as Tendu, but only through their extreme medical intervention. Although she contacts her spaceship through radio, they will not be able to return for her for five years - for the meantime, she's stranded, and must learn to adapt and survive in an alien culture.
Sometimes slow-moving, the book is more concerned with the rich cultural details of the humanoid but frog-like Tendu than with action-adventure scenes. Based on the author's visits to the rainforests of Costa Rica, the arboreal and community-oriented lifestyle of the aliens really comes alive.
In this sequel, Through Alien Eyes, Survey returns for Juna, accompanied by a horde of politically-motivated researchers and experts excited to make contact with this new species. Returning to human civilization with two Tendu ambassadors, Juna must navigate treacherous waters to maintain her suddenly-precarious position as bridge between two cultures. Not just culture shock, but legal battles ensue.
In both books, Thompson uses the contrast between the Tendu and humanity to discuss the importance of ecology, issues of population control, and the importance of harmony and balance. There are a few preachy moments, but overall the 'message' is not too overt. Although humanity is shown to have problems, there is a hopeful outlook - and the Tendu are not perfect either. Rather, both cultures are shown to have things to learn from the other.
Recommended for fans of Sheri Tepper.
I have to combat the incorrect description of PBS. This book is a sequel to The Color of Distance, which I really enjoyed a lot. This book was a weak followup, however.
I hope I don't violate any rules, but here is an excerpt from the Amazon listing for this book.
From Publishers Weekly
In Thomson's The Color of Distance (1995), Dr. Juna Saari was accidentally abandoned on the planet Tiangi. Despite life-threatening allergic reactions to that world's life-forms, she managed to survive thanks to the biological wizardry of the Tendu, Tiangi's intelligent native species, who radically altered her body to thrive in their environment. Now, returned to human form, Juna comes back to Earth accompanied by two Tendu. They must learn - aboard ship, while visiting a series of Earth orbital habitats, and then on Earth - to adapt to a human environment, but it isn't clear whether humanity will accept them in return. Despite the great biological gifts the Tendu can offer an environmentally distressed Earth, many humans find the aliens frightening. Escorting the Tendu through Earth society, Juna finds her life spun upside down when she discovers that she is accidentally pregnant, an illegal act on an Earth struggling to overcome critical overpopulation. Much of the novel's tension stems from attempts to force Juna either to abort or to give up her babyAattempts stemming, in part, from the father's refusal to allow his child to be raised with aliens. Thomson is an excellent prose stylist with an obvious love for the kind of wild country that is the Tendu's preferred habitat. Her major characters are well developed, though her secondary characters, particularly the good guys, are not properly differentiated. Overall, this is an amiable, unusually thoughtful novel of first contact that should boost Thomson's growing reputation. (July)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Great sf book about humans learning about alien cultures.
"A solid, convincing story of human paranoia and the potential disaster it could cause when we finally meet an intelligence that doesn't look, or think, the same way we do." --Science Fiction Chronicle
This tale is about humans bringing two creatures, Tendus, from another world to Earth. The Tendus are intelligent and adaptable, able to communicate and resilient. The purpose of their visit to Earth is to open up trading and colonization of the Tendu world. There is political, social, moral and medical upheaval on Earth because of their visit. As with any other "different" being on our planet, all facets of human personality are written into the story: kindness, compassion, love versus bigotry, greed, violence.
It was very well written, the characters are well developed, and the tale itself is engrossing.