Saturday, 8 March 2014

The Silvers by Jill Smith

From the Blurb:  

B, captain of the first crewed mission to the Silver Planet, does not think of the planet’s native race as people. Silvers may look human, but their emotional spectrum is severely limited. B allows his team to capture, study, and even kill the creatures.

When B bonds with a Silver called Imms, everything changes. B’s not sure if Imms’s feelings are genuine or imitation, but B’s growing friendship with Imms becomes his anchor in a strange world. Following a shipboard fire that kills most of B’s team, B takes Imms back to Earth. He sanitizes the story of the fire—for which Imms bears some responsibility—so that Imms is recast as its hero rather than its cause.

Life on Earth threatens the fragile connection between the two men. As Imms seeks independence from a bureaucracy that treats him like a test subject, he begins to experience the gamut of emotions—including a love B is frightened to return. And as B and Imms’s story about the fire threatens to unravel, Imms must use all he’s learned about being human to protect B.

The Review:

The Silvers by Jill Smith is a highly emotive novel, packed with sagacious prose.  The themes of colonisation and assimilation are prominent, making this novel deep, compelling, and intriguing.

An exploratory team is sent to the Silver Planet to investigate whether the water found there would solve Earth's water crisis.  However, when they arrive, they encounter an alien race whom they call Silvers.  The Silvers are humanoid, have a bruised skin hue, and a wandering heart.  Their emotional and physical differences are threatening to some of the crew, who quickly turn to brutality and cruelty - some of it sanctioned for 'Science'.

When the captain, B, finds a Silver, who has been brutalised by one of his crew, he decides to act with empathy and compassion, taking the Silver on board and nursing him back to health away from the other crew.  Although Silvers don't seem to feel much emotion, B soon learns that they are more complicated than the brutish humans first believe.

Imms, a Silver, is intrigued by these newcomers to his land, but soon his entanglements with them earn him castigation from his clan.  He is left with two options: to be alone or to join the humans, especially the one who saved his life, B.

The second part of this book is where the author really shines.  In the haunts of domesticity, Jill Smith successfully interweaves the mundane, the beautiful, and the profound as B and Imms struggle to navigate their relationship and stop more humans from hurting Imms.

Imms' perspective is especially provoking as he tries to become more human, to assimilate.  The pain of non-quite-belonging that Imms feels highlights, I think, the pain of colonised bodies.  Jill Smith provides open allusions this, especially with reference to the story of Pocahontas. 

B is a wonderfully faceted and fallible character.  He is the reluctant hero, and this reluctance sometimes causes him to falter at times when others need him most.  He is quite reflective on his own shortcomings and even when he is not behaving his best, it is still easy to sympathise with him.

There were a few detail discrepancies that I felt could have done with some work.  The premise is that Earth is short on water, but the action that takes place on Earth gives no indication of such a shortage - for example there are and streams, and the humans eat nonhuman animals, who consume a lot of water.  I would expect water shortage to have wide ranging impacts on humans and nonhuman animals, even those living in wealthy countries.  Also, despite the existence of intergalactic space travel, Earth is very much ordinary modern day.  These discrepancies, however, don't affect the story.

The Silvers provides a hesitant happy-for-now ending, which may not be satisfactory for all lovers of m/m romance, but it is an ending that reflects the turbulence and complexity of the characters and their story.

A highly recommended read.

A copy of this novel was given to Speculative Queer Romance in exchange for an honest review.

More Information:

Title: The Silvers
Author: Jill Smith
Genre: Sci-fi/Romance
Length: Novel
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
Publishing Date:  Feb. 2014
Type: m/m

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