cover image Ascending: The Vardeshi Saga, Book 1

Ascending: The Vardeshi Saga, Book 1

Meg Pechenick. Ink Sigil, $11.99 trade paper (490p) ISBN 978-1-73231-230-2

First contact with aliens means learning how to say you’re sorry in this very personal journal of a voyage to another world. Grad student Avery Alcott is the first human to be taught the language of the alien Vardeshi, who visited Earth briefly 25 years earlier. Upon returning, the Vardeshi ask for a representative to travel to their homeworld, and Avery’s fluency makes her the perfect candidate. After hurried training, she wins a post aboard a Vardeshi ship and must begin learning Vardeshi culture by immersion while making a case for alliance with Earth. Courteous and reserved, the Vardeshi are not quick to respond to her overtures, and some are openly hostile. Though Avery starts to make friends, sabotage threatens her hard-won acceptance and even her life. Debut novelist Pechenick takes a slow, deliberate path to unfolding the secrets of her characters and her universe, which allows for close observations but threatens to stall the narrative. Readers who appreciate deep cultural worldbuilding akin to C.J. Cherryh’s Foreigner books will stick with a maturing Avery despite all her journey’s detours. (BookLife)