In Nora’s Sun, M. S. Fowle introduces us to a post invasion Earth, and one woman’s quest to find her son using only visions she sees in dreams. Fowle gives us a taste of an interesting world, but leaves us hungering for substance in some key areas.
We are the invaders
My favorite concept in this story is the idea of a delayed invasion, that aliens seed themselves in our world, and don’t awake to conquer for 25 years. Until the invasion is announced, humans and aliens are indistinguishable and unaware of their distinct origins or powers. How would you react if you thought of yourself as human, and were told that you were actually part of an army sent to conquer humanity. Whose side would you be on?
Fowle explores this question through the character of Joe, an unlikely ally of Nora and her little splinter cell. He’s a merus (the aliens in this story) with a mimick asset, a shape-shifter, able to assume any appearance. How he comes to first help this group is largely unexplained, Nora finds him because she knows it’s the way she should go, and he decides to help her without much question. Once his origin is revealed he is coerced at gunpoint to continue on the journey, though doesn’t make any particular attempts to escape, and in fact is journeying for his own agenda, finding his true face.
Joe plays the role of the sympathetic stranger, making the connections as to the source of Nora’s visions and her son’s and husband’s true origins, as well as providing a sympathetic shoulder to cry on. Here the length of this story works against it. The relationship of Nora and Joe moves too quickly from distrust to acceptance and seems to skip moments and scenes in between. In fact, even though Joe is one of the invading aliens, Nora seems to accept him pretty much from the start, showing hesitation only when he pulls out her husband’s face and can’t explain how he knows it.
A flawed heroine
Nora’s mission to save her son is a compelling one, even though it is being done to the exclusion of the larger fight against the invaders. The story is told in first person perspective, and because of this sometimes Nora’s actions seem a little too knowing, a little too perfect and correct. She always knows what to do, where to go. You never really get a sense that she’s in any danger, if for no other reason than she’s alive to tell you the tale. First person narratives are tricky in this regard, and I think the story would have been better served by an external narrator.
When Nora is found by a larger rebellion it turns out they have been looking for her for some time and have decided to save her son as a symbol for the coming rebellion. While I like the idea of a single heroine being the inspiration for a rebellion, the introduction of this army seems only to serve the purpose of how Nora will get enough firepower to get inside this facility in the first place. Frankly, an all-out military assault wasn’t what I was expecting, and I think a more personal and stealthy infilitration would have been a more interesting conclusion. This army would work under the right set of circumstances, but the story’s length again prevented the reader from getting a sense this was coming, or even was a plausible possibility in this world.
I do appreciate Nora’s thinking about the effects her violent course of action might have on her son’s opinion of her. Indeed she is willing to kill a great many of her son’s own race just to get to him. This point is overshadowed however with a taunting confrontation with one of the researchers in the facility who would have worked as a final adversary if we’d had any reason to care about him before that point. By the end we know so little about what was being done to her son or why, just that Nora was able to get him out.
Hungry for more
I loved the world M. S. Fowle created, and despite her flaws Nora is a compelling heroine. There are some great action sequences and one-liners, but overall the plot seems to move too quickly, skipping scenes and opportunities for development that would have made this a more complete work. I’d be interested to see what Fowle’s novel works are like, and if she ever revisits the world where the Merus have invaded, I’ll be along for the ride.
3 out of 5 stars.
(This review was also posted to Amazon under the pseudonym “The Fractal Man”)