Today we enter the realm of indie YA science fiction. An AlienCollective by Canadian author Roxanne Barbour begins with the protagonist, Cyn-Tia Silverthorne and 7 other humans,4 females and 4 males, waking up in a strange world in a compound surrounded by 3 other compounds holding similar groups of aliens. They are all at the same stage of life as she is – young adulthood. The captives are a mix of four species from worlds which, like earth, are at the stage of making the leap to the rest of the galaxy. All have universal translators around their necks, and each species is unique and clearly drawn. Cyn seems to be quite a fan of Star Trek type shows and is unphased by this turn of events, accepting it and going along with the wishes of her abductors for the time being.
At first they are separated by a barrier they can communicate through, with a strange box acting as the nexus in the center corner connecting the four compounds. She meets Stire, a male of the world of Temma. When Cyn and Stire touch the box, they realize that the four groups will have to cooperate to open the box. Reluctantly the others, Jana from Irandis and Frakis from Reanon comply, and box opens into each compound to reveal cryptic instructions for each group. They are not told why they are there, they are to live in integrated communities and the four individuals who opened the box are the leaders of the individual groups, and cannot be changed as their DNA is required to open the box.
As their time goes on, they make friends and form alliances, learn many skills they need to survive, and embark on discovering the why of their kidnapping and become adults. In true Gene Roddenberry tradition, a tentative interspecies romance develops, which is both touching and believable.
I enjoyed the way Barbour creates the aliens, and gives them unique characteristics which are specific to their species, and also gives them similarities which might be common in diverse species who’ve reached our level in technology. I must admit, Cyn is portrayed as being far more mature than an average seventeen year old, as is Stire; but her interactions with the others are interesting and believable. Several times during the tale I found myself backtracking, but overall it was an enjoyable reading experience, and is one which should appeal to teenagers and young readers from age twelve on up. I give it four solid stars and will be buying it for my young family members who are discovering science-fiction.
Roxanne Barbour is also the author of the YA scifi murder mystery A Way, About and can be found blogging at http://roxannebarbour.wordpress.com/. You can follow her on Twitter at @RoxanneBarbour.