No Earthly Shore by Jilly Paddock. E-book review

NO EARTHLY SHORE by Jilly Paddock, Cathaven Press, E-book, £1.28, http://tabbycat.wordpress.com/about/bibliography/

Reviewed by Stewart Horn

It’s the distant future: humans are colonising far-flung corners of the galaxy and the only rule is that we don’t take over a planet with any incumbent sentient life.  Word gets back to Earth from Yemitzov 5 that a young girl is having telepathic conversations with “sea-quilts” – invertebrate creatures hitherto not considered any more sentient than jellyfish, since they seem to float around aimlessly in the planet’s oceans.  A team is sent to investigate, contact is established and we all learn a lesson from the encounter.

From the synopsis it all sounds a bit familiar – the likes of Clarke, Asimov and Bradbury have been there and literally written the book many times over.  But Ms. Paddock is doing much more than rehashing old themes.

There is a bit of tedious but necessary exposition at the beginning, but once we meet the characters and the story gets going, this is a great read.    NES is a short piece: a long short story or compact novella, but it is absolutely cohesive and convincing.  Her prose is smooth, stylish, sensual and occasionally beautiful.  The characters are convincing and engaging.  Importantly her science is spot on (once we get to the planet – we’ll ignore the whole warp-drive thing) – the internal logic of the story is well thought out and completely believable.  The sea-quilts themselves are wonderfully brought to life.  There is some nice social and political subtext but we’re allowed to work it out for ourselves rather than being bludgeoned with it.

If there is a checklist of good writing Jilly Paddock ticks every box, and I’m looking forward to reading more.

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