A review of Nina Munteanu’s Outer Diverse (Starfire World Syndicate, 2011)
By Derek Newman-Stille
The world has changed. Humans have been forced off of the planet Earth by their supposed ‘saviours’, the Eosians. Humans were threatened by a race called the Vos, a race that desired the destruction of humanity, but the Eosians drove them away… only they decided not to leave. They claimed origin from the Earth, claimed that they were the alien hybrids of humanity and the Eosian gods, the Epoptes. They have appointed themselves the Guardians of the galaxy, in charge of maintaining their own ideas of law.
In her Outer Diverse, Nina Munteanu creates a human future on the edge of chaos, and a multiverse that flows back and forth, one universe feeding into another. Religion and science are not entirely separate in this world as ideas of the spiritual and the rational interact with each other.
Nina Munteanu illustrates her love of diverse ecosystems, richly describing complex alien eco-webs. Rich descriptions of biodiversity populate her narrative, making the alien environment feel real, feel close, and engage the senses. She evokes in the reader a desire for exploring the miraculous diversity of life.
Often SF focuses on physics and related sciences, creating detailed descriptions of space-warping abilities and the technologies of the future, but Munteanu reminds the reader of the importance of exploring the biological sciences in SF, exploring the richness of alien environments, the relationships between diverse organisms, and technologies that incorporate the organic and principles of biology. Nina creates aliens that make sense in ecosystems that fit with them.
Munteanu’s narrative focuses on a woman who identifies as human but discovers that her body contains a richness of diversity, skills beyond human ability and often beyond her control. She is the only non-Eosian allowed to be a Guardian, a police officer of the future with a mission toward preserving galactic order and security and preventing criminal activities. Despite working with Eosians, she harbours racist notions about them, fearing them and viewing them as a threat to humanity. She is an insular character, fearing dependency on others and the loss of her own independence. She is fundamentally unwilling to let her guard down, to see herself as needing others and afraid that trust may weaken her. It is ironic that her final willingness to trust another who eventually takes advantage of her encourages her to make networks of friends, to learn to rely on others and accept them rather than spurring her into further insularity.
You can explore Nina Munteanu further at her website: http://www.ninamunteanu.com/ .