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In the compelling opening of Deep Merge, we meet Kaesah and Atimki, and events rapidly unfold to find Kaesah cradling her beloved partner as she dies. Both women are from the planet NaQwi. They were living on earth Earth doing clandestine research; however, with Atimki’s passing, Kaesah is conflicted about the action she must take in order to fulfill her duty to her beloved and their home planet. The women were on a mission related to genetics and discover that a second alien race has infiltrated Earth and is manipulating its inhabitants for their own devices. Now Kaesah must find a human capable of performing Deep Merge so she can return home to report the nefarious interference from the Phlurx along with her research results.
Antonia (Toni) Lorne, a woman from Georgia who is trying to move on with her life after the death of her own partner, is Kaesah’s perfect match. In the middle of the night, as Toni sleeps, she feels as if she is out of control and floating. It turns out not to be dream. She wakens on board Kaesah’s ship, subjected to examination to confirm her fitness for Kaesah’s plan. Kaesah informs her that her presence is vital to the survival of both their planets. She goes on to explain that the propulsion system of her ship requires two people to guide it, and finally reveals the compelling details of the danger to their planets. With this information and an increasing realization that what Toni is experiencing is real, not a hallucination or some government experiment, and not some devious hoax, Toni must decide whether or not to submit to the request.
The story title is a reference to the merging of two beings that is so much more than merely a way to propel Kaesah’s ship toward home. There are moments of genuine insight, tenderness, arousal, anger and angst in the story, although as the history of the NaQwin people unfolds, and their own interference with the women of Earth millennia ago is revealed, the actions of the NaQwins and the Phlurx have some uncomfortable similarities. Both Kaesah and Toni have personality traits that must be overcome within themselves to learn the lessons that will make them successful in their respective journeys. They must also accept each other at face value, for some of their flaws become their greatest assets in difficult times. Often on their journey, frustration runs high and, as their voyage to the other side of the galaxy comes to an end, danger rises exponentially, and there is always the question of what will become of Kaesah and Toni when they reach NaQwi.
North has a penchant for characters who abduct women against their will, but they always seem to do so with lofty ulterior motives that makes their actions a little more palatable. NaQwins have an appealing quality of their own and their intentions to save their race, as well as the population of Earth, seems altruistic enough. Kaesah provides a bit of comic relief to the intensity of the story at times with her literal understanding of language and culture. A few editing errors can be forgiven, for North’s story is told in lyrical prose portraying a dream-like state that eventually wends its way to a genuinely romantic tale. Deep Merge is alien abduction that will take the reader on a journey filled with contradictions and conundrums, couched in an evolving love story. It’s a tale that contains a fascinating alien world and culture populated with a realistic society and an intricate infrastructure. This is a complex sci-fi tale with strong moral overtones and unique characters. Board a starship and journey into a skillfully told and thought-provoking story.
By Linda North
Paperback, 9781939062529, 337 pp.