When his own world is destroyed, Aldiss and his crew barely manage to escape, leaving friends and lovers behind. What was meant to be an exploratory trip back to the home world turns into a mad dash for survival. When they awaken from stasis on Earth, which was abandoned by humanity five centuries before, they must quickly learn about their new home. While exploring the region around the ship, Aldiss meets Hari, a shape-changer, whose people harbor secrets that might cost the crew their lives.
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Hari reached the edge of the woods just in time to see Neru crouching to leap at the two-legs. Young fool.
He gathered himself and jumped after Neru, knocking him aside as his teeth reached for the two-legs' throat.
Neru turned and snarled at him, backing away toward the woods.
Hari stood firm, ears back, hackles raised, and drew the corners of his mouth back to reveal his teeth. Back off, Neru.
The whelp shook his head and grinned with the brashness of youth, until Hari leaped at him and nipped his ear. With a surprised yelp, Neru turned his head, deferring to Hari's strength. As you say, brother. There was a cockiness to Neru's look that unsettled him.
The other wolf backed up slowly then turned to disappear into the woods.
Hari caught a glimpse of Mavi watching from the shadows. The old wolf snarled, and slunk off after her son.READ MORE
What do you seek, old mother? Hari wondered, watching Mavi's silver-tipped tail flicker into the darkness. It was clear where Neru's courage and cunning had come from.
Hari turned back toward the two-legs. He was holding a strange stick, not unlike the one that Hari's grandmother had shown him in the wolf dream.
But it was his face that caught Hari's eye. He knew that face. The two-legs' eyes were white-gray, and his jet-black hair was swept to the side.
Despite the danger, he shifted in the manner only a few of the clan are able to do in the cold. He grew quickly taller and less hairy but no less muscled, and stood naked before the two-legs.
They stared at each other for a long moment. Hari felt an immense attraction washing over him. He saw in his summer form that this two-legs was beautiful. His own body responded to this… man… in an unexpected way, seeing and feeling things his winter form could not. Hari leaned forward and sniffed the stranger, drinking in his musk. It smelled enticing. Strangely familiar.
He sensed the two-legs stiffen, and to reassure, him, Hari licked the man's neck.
The two-legs was trembling now like a young whelp, so he tried something else. He took the stranger's face in his hands and kissed him.
The shaking slowed, and then the man was kissing him back. Hari was hungry for him, like a starving wolf at the end of a long, hard winter.
It is not the time for this, the keh whispered in his ear.
He broke contact and turned away, ashamed that he was betraying his Clan, and for lust. An emotion of his summer form.
"I'm sorry," he said to the two-legs, without looking back. "It won't happen again." Even he was not sure if he meant Neru's attack, or the kiss.
He shifted back into his winter form and loped off into the woods after his pack mates.COLLAPSE
This book clicks on just about every level. The heartbreak Aldiss feels at the loss of not only his home planet but his ex (even though he states there is nothing romantic between them anymore) is palpable. The hope of a new home world is quickly set back first by the crash landing and the dangers that caused but also with the troubles of Cat’s illness coming out of stasis. Add in the inter clan squabbles about what to do with their now returned ancestors and it spells trouble. Hari is guided not only by his mother but the keh, the spirits of his ancestors. The two “Law & Order” type twists near the end of the book complete the upheaval. But the feeling of hope at the end of the book makes the ride worth taking. This author is new to me and I look forward to reading more from him.