Friday, March 6, 2015

Species Imperative by Julie Czerneda (review)

Species Imperative is an omnibus that celebrates the 10 year anniversary of the main character’s story.  It is a weighty tome that combines three separate stories, Survival, Migration, and Regeneration.

Survival by Julie Czerneda is the first story in the ‘Species Imperative’ trilogy, and follows biologist and researcher Dr. Mackenzie (Winifred Elizabeth Wright) Connor, known as Mac, as she is thrust into a research project far beyond her wildest imagination, involving multiple alien races and innumerable planets and a mystery that has stumped multitudes over the  years.  Not quite a xenophobe, Mac has a crash course in inter-species and diplomatic relations, when she suddenly acquires the attention of both a Dhryn named Brymn and a government representative named Nikolai Trojanowski (Nik) and discovers that everything she has believed is about to be forcefully changed, and she will have to adapt to new circumstances quickly...if the worlds as she knows them are to survive.


Mac’s life has been forever changed, but it seems she is destined to become more than a respected salmon researcher as she ends up in a think-tank that includes not only an amazing spectrum of aliens, but also the man she has spent so many years arguing with over her research parameters and its impact on her little corner of the world.  The discovery that her knowledge of biology has direct relevance to the question of what is happening with the Dhryn leads to even more discoveries about other aliens, and the dangers mount, until it is not only Mac who is at risk, but perhaps the entire Earth and beyond.  The difficult of identifying who are allies and who are enemies intensifies, and betrayal may sabotage the chance for any defense against the enemies who apparently can infiltrate at will.


Mac continues to learn how little she knows about the capabilities of her allies even as she rallies those around her to continue to fight and learn as much as they can about their enemy.  The discovery of the layered implications of promises and the importance of congruence is reflected both in her personal world and in the systems that have to work together to defeat the threat that may wipe out all of the allies.  Unexpected developments reflect the persistence of the rules of biology, no matter the type of being, but betrayal and misdirection may undermine any progress made unless everyone can work together.  The demands made on everyone will winnow out the faint of heart and allow those with the capability to show what heroes are made of, the question is, will it be enough to overcome the enemy?

These stories are an amazing melding of biology, science fiction, action, and romance.  The gradual build-up from a sometimes hilarious view of the antics of grad students and obsessed researchers, to the connection between research techniques and the concept of a precariously balanced system of worlds in which very disparate beings interact, is a remarkable reflection of the author’s artistry and dexterity at creating very believable scenarios that showcase so many different elements.  There is a fascinating analogy between the technique used to recreate the sounds of the intruder in Mac’s room and the entire first story, as patience and experimentation gradually exposes information needed to get an accurate picture. The vivid counterpoint between the horrific descriptions of widespread destruction and the joy of studying life while respecting fragile ecosystems drives home the message delivered in the story and its unexpected ending makes one even more anxious to read the next one.

The second book expounds on the remarkable beings introduced in the first, even as it introduces even more fantastical situations that are so adroitly portrayed that they seem perfectly possible and probable.  Unexpected shifts in the roles of characters previously introduced provide both illumination and more confusion, as more details are uncovered, yet the parallels to the microcosm of salmon research are still perpetuated and help provide insight into the overall mystery. 

The third book provides a delicious resolution to many of the issues that have been plaguing the investigation, even as it uncovers a dizzying array of interconnections and hidden agendas.  There is a very satisfying sense of congruence and fulfillment, even as some tendrils are left to possibly take root and grow into another enthralling set of tales.

Overall, this is an intense set of novels that has engendered a set of fans who describe themselves as ‘bio-geeks’, with good cause.  Fortunately, I don’t think that one HAS to be a lover of science and logic to appreciate these stories, although I daresay, it definitely enhances one’s appreciation for the facility with which Ms. Czerneda has blended fact and fiction.  I am in awe of the amount of detail that has gone into creating such a mesmerizing story and one can spend hours dissecting such things as a race that uses ‘ne’ as a pronoun, the importance of having an additional name which can be ‘taken into one’s keeping’ as each major accomplishment in life is achieved, a joke about differences between beings that can only be appreciated when one knows how each deals with stress, and the myriad of other creative hints that comprise this story.  I can only say that, each time I pick up one of these books, I am caught by the spell and have no problem spending hours revisiting exotic and fantastical situations that are so clearly described that I have no problem understanding when something is happening that isn’t ‘logical’ within the framework of the story.  I can’t deny that these are very weighty books and it will require a considerable commitment of time to read them, but wow, one can only be enhanced by this glimpse of other cultures and the interactions between them…and it will probably make you think about how these issues that encompass solar systems and a multiplicity of aliens actually are pertinent to how we humans treat each other within our own spheres of influence.  These stories deserve much higher than a 5 star rating and are definitely part of my ‘keeper’ collection!

© Night Owl Reviews 

I received a copy of this title in return for an honest review.


  1. The three books sound really great. I really love that first cover and all the colors with it. Thanks for the great review.

    1. Thank you for the compliment, case you can't tell, I REALLY like these books, lol.