01/07/2009. Contributed by Pauline Morgan
pub: Immanion Press. 179 page hardback. Price: £16.99 (UK), $30.99 (US), Є24.99 (euro). ISBN: 978-1904853275.
check out website: www.immanion-press.com
When a writer creates a mythos that develops a large, enthusiastic following, they can be plagued by an awful dilemma. Do you write something completely different because you want to or do you write more stories in the successful setting? Some authors, like Storm Constantine, do both and having set up her own publishing house, if the mainstream publishers are not interested in a particular work, she can produce it herself.
At the start of her writing career, Constantine created the Wraeththu and their culture. The Wraeththu are the successors of humanity. They are beautiful, androgynous hermaphrodites. Initially, they were created from adolescent human boys - it was not thought that girls could become Wraeththu - but later they were able to produce offspring of their own. Although they have been transformed, they are still prey to all the emotions and jealousies that they had as humans.
'The Hienama' is a beautifully produced book, the story little more than a novella in length. The hienama of the title means spiritual teacher. Jassenah already feels a bit of an outsider at the start of the story. When he was incepted (turned into Wraeththu) by the nomadic Sulh tribe he was older than most others undergoing the process. He is advised to travel to the town of Jesith to seek instruction from the heinama, Ysobi, who agrees to train him. He settles into the village, finding friends, a cottage to live in and a job.
As his training contains a sexual element, Jassenah find himself falling in love with his teacher. Another har, Zehn, falls in love with him. This is the start of a potentially destructive triangle.
Although there are elements in the plot that are unique to the Wraeththu culture and their physiology, the emotional story could have been transposed to any genre. What makes this book stand out is the craftsmanship of the characterisation and the poetry in the writing itself.
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