(Reviewed by Josh Aterovis JUN 12, 2005)
In a culture that places so much emphasis on visual images, storytelling is almost a lost art whereas once it was a major part of our cultural heritage. Amy Thompson's novel is set on the rather primitive planet of Thalassa where storytelling is still an art and Storytellers are highly valued. Among the Storytellers, the elderly woman known simply as Teller is the most revered of all. Passing on the oral history of their planet, offering morality lessons cleverly guised as humorous fables, and entertaining the crowds that gather to hear her is her life. It may be a solitary one —just she and her harsel (large, sentient whale-like creatures who communicate telepathically) traveling from island to island on the many oceans of Thalassa—but Teller likes it that way...or so she believes.
When a young, homeless orphan boy is caught stealing a loaf of bread in order to pay Teller for her story, Teller intervenes on his behalf and offers him food and a job serving as her guide while she is in the city. Samad cautiously accepts her offer; he has learned not to trust kindness from strangers. Teller decides to help Samad find a family, but quickly the two outsiders bond, and when the time comes to give him up, neither is willing to walk away. After much convincing—both from Samad and Abeha, the harsel—Teller reluctantly agrees to take Samad on as her apprentice.
As Samad develops into a master Storyteller, he also hides a secret from Teller. He is attracted to his own sex, but he is afraid to tell her for fear he will lose the only family he’s ever known. Little does he know that Teller hides an even bigger secret, one that could change his entire world.
At its heart, Storyteller is a tale of family, of a child’s need to please his parent while trying desperately to become his own person. Teller has hopes and dreams for her adopted son, but they aren’t the same as Samad’s. He finds himself caught between the plans he’s made for himself, and the plans Teller has made for him—plans that could affect the future of all of Thalassa.
Amy Thomson’s writing is wonderfully evocative, drawing me in from the first page, and keeping me hooked until the last. She brings her imagined world lovingly alive with her words, and made me care deeply for Teller, Samad, and Abeha—and even for Thalassa itself. Her story is both accessible and moving, staying with me for weeks after I finished it. She has created a unique and complex ecology, complete with a rich and believable history behind it. Thomson has proven to be a master storyteller herself.
- Amazon readers rating: from 6 reviews
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
- Virtual Girl (1993)
- The Color of Distance (1995)
- Through Alien Eyes (1999)
- Storyteller (December 2003)
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- 109 Interview with Amy Thomson
- SF Site review of The Color of Distance
- SF Site review of Through Alien Eyes
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About the Author:
Amy Thomson was born in 1958 in Miami, Florida.
She won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award in 1994 for her first novel, Virtual Girl. Her second novel, The Color of Distance, was nominated for the Phillip K. Dick Award in 1996.
Amy lives in Seattle, Washington with her husband Edd Vick and their daughter Katie.