Michael Jasper’s THE WANNOSHAY CYCLE

[I read this book a number of years ago and wrote this review immediately after reading it.  I recently came across a short story by Michael Jasper titled “Drinker,” which is set in the Wannoshay universe.  The short story was different — set on the Wannoshay homeworld, entirely populated by the aliens.  I didn’t think it was as successful, though it was beautifully written.  It didn’t grab me like this novel did.  But revisiting that universe made me think about how much I liked the novel, and I remembered that I reviewed it on Journalscape back then.  So here is that review, from February 18, 2008, with some edits and deletions (like a reference to what I was reading next…):]

I started reading THE WANNOSHAY CYCLE by Michael Jasper on Wednesday or Thursday of last week, finished it on Friday night, and went back to reread a few chapters over the weekend.I don’t know how many here have read it, but for what it’s worth, I thought this was one of the best “alien” type SF novels I’ve ever read. I won’t talk about the plot here; if anyone wants to know more about it, check it out on Amazon and read the description.

I will say, though, that the depiction of aliens is up there with Niven’s Ringworld aliens, in my opinion. It is superior to those, in some ways. I felt like I *knew* these creatures better than I ever knew the Puppeteer or the other alien from RINGWORLD. I could visualize them much better than I could the alien beings in Asimov’s THE GODS THEMSELVES, and the aliens in Robert Sawyer’s CALCULATING GOD were less well described, I thought.

Jasper’s vision of the near future, an Earth where things like You Tube and blogging have been extrapolated to one possible logical conclusion, where the government’s response to terrorism has become a way of life in itself, sort of, where designer drugs evolve into Blur, was both familiar but yet clearly IN the future. I thought it was very well imagined and described.

Michael Jasper writes beautifully, also. Nary a clunky sentence to pull one out of the story to be found. Characters are fully realized; you “know” them very quickly, including the aliens to the degree that any alien can be understood. One of the nice things about the story is that the author does not try to explain every last thing about these creatures; leaving me to believe that there are some things about the aliens that just are outside of human experience.

This is up there with the best SF I’ve read in a couple of years. And seriously, I’m not just kissing up because Michael Jasper journals here, and might (or might not) read this. If anyone reading this likes SF, you can confidently give this book a go.

*****

4 thoughts on “Michael Jasper’s THE WANNOSHAY CYCLE

  1. Steven M. Moore

    Hi Scott,
    Saw your comments on my blog and thought I’d elaborate here. The problem with a truly alien culture is finding enough commonality that we can make them seem human. We humans even have problems understanding our own cultural differences. Understanding strange ETs won’t be any easier.
    Your post spurs me to mention two additional sci-fi classics where misunderstanding leads to confrontation (again, not uncommon in human cultural clashes): the bugs in Heinlein’s Starship Troopers and those in those in Card’s Ender’s Game. Of course, there are also the comic confrontations (Hitchhiker’s Guide and the Men in Black movies, especially the first). And, if we want to reach really far back, we shouldn’t forget H. G. Wells’ Morlocks and Elois, “evolved humans” who might as well be alien!
    I purposely made my Rangers about as alien as I could imagine–they communicate via buzzspeak, i.e. spread-spectrum signals and are more like waterbugs than bipeds. Nevertheless, via AI translation, they interact with Humans in a very Human way. No one would be interested in the stories if I hadn’t done that.
    Writing about truly alien cultures is difficult. In Heinlein’s case, the cultural clash is never resolved. In Card’s, just barely, via Ender’s later (oriental?) mysticism. There’s a good reason why the Star Trek Federation is populated by very humanoid ETs–we see ourselves in them. To go beyond that, authors are in danger of losing their readers’ interests.
    I’ll check out Michael Jasper this summer when I have some time for casual reading.
    r/Steve

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  2. Scott Dyson Post author

    I agree, it’s hard to get into a story that is totally “alien” (is that a pun?) to our experience…but as the pun suggests, that’s what real aliens are likely to be. I liked that aspect of Jasper’s novel. The story dealt enough with the human reactions ad such and understanding the aliens was not important to the story — sort of a “MacGuffin” that drove the story but was not critical w/r/t the progression of the story. In fact, perhaps just the opposite — the lack of ability to understand them — was the most important thing. It held up a mirror to ourselves and how we might react to aliens in this situation.

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  3. Steven M. Moore

    I went to Amazon to “peek inside” The Wannoshay Cycle (the book that sounds the most interesting) and noticed the $5.99 price tag–a bit steep for my casual reading budget these days. Looks like Michael has the same problem I have too: lack of reviewers. Both things, reviews and price points, are details, of course, but in today’s competitive publishing environment, the Devil’s in the details.
    Unfortunately, Amazon now has to stick on state sales tax (another detail), so I’m thinking about reducing my $x.99 ebooks to $x.50 now–but I won’t call that a price reduction. 😉
    I’ll still keep in mind the Cycle for summer reading…maybe Michael will reduce prices by then.

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  4. Scott Dyson Post author

    I didn’t notice the price, but yeah, it’s a bit steep. I believe Michael Jasper publishes with a very small press called The Merry Blacksmith, but I don’t know if they have anything to do with his e-books.

    I was participating peripherally in a discussion about p-books vs e-books on The Passive Voice and mentioned that I still like p-books, but have been making the switch to mostly e-books. I purchased QUANTUM ZOO as a p-book only because I have a story in it (and I had a gift card with Amazon — otherwise I could have gotten it from DJ Gelner for a reduced price using his publisher’s discount), but there is no way I would have forked out the 10+ dollars to buy it in physical form if I wasn’t in it.

    But what I pointed out was that, given a choice between a remaindered HC that I can buy for 5 bucks give or take, or a paperback that costs me 8-10 dollars, or an ebook that costs me 6-8 dollars, I’ll probably grab the remaindered HC every time. (At least it’s getting me stock for that used bookstore I always thought I might open someday…though the likelihood of that happening gets less and less every day…)

    Still, I’d rather have something than nothing.

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