Author: J.A. Rock
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Rating: 4.5 stars
Received from Publisher
Blurb: What humans want from the Silver Planet is water. What they find is a race of humanoids who are sentient, but as emotionless and serene as the plants and placid lakes they tend.
B, captain of the mission, doesn’t believe that the “Silvers” are intelligent, and lets his crew experiment on them. But then he bonds with Imms, who seems different from the others—interested in learning, intrigued by human feelings. And B realizes that capturing, studying, and killing this planet’s natives has done incalculable damage.
When a fire aboard B’s ship kills most of the crew and endangers Imms, B decides to take him back to Earth. But the simplicity of the Silver Planet doesn’t follow them. Imms learns the full spectrum of human emotions, including a love B is frightened to return, and a mistrust of the bureaucracy that wants to treat Imms like a test subject, even if they have to eliminate B to do it.
Review: A small exploratory crew from Earth has arrived on the Silver planet to assess the viability of harvesting the much-needed water for the inhabitants back on Earth. While there, the crew (captained by B) has also been given the mission of studying the planet’s native inhabitants. The Silvers are humanoid creatures with skin the colour of light bruises, the colour which gives them their name. Their unique anatomy and their passive, peaceful nature make them easy targets for derisiveness and abuse as their consistently even, emotional state is taken as a sign of them being barely sentient. It isn’t until B has a personal encounter with one of the Silvers that he starts to see, reluctantly at first, how wrong they all are. He stumbles across a severely injured Silver near the crew’s ship who has obviously come close to death at the hands of one of his crew, as there are no predators on the Silver planet, except the ones that came in his own ship.
Guilt prompts B to try and save the Silver, bringing him onto the ship and hiding him in B’s own room. As the Silver, dubbed Roach (his actual name is Imms) by B, slowly recovers from his injuries, B is forced to acknowledge to himself that there is more to the race of strange, silver beings than he wished to believe. He discovers that while their emotions aren’t passionate and subject to the extremes of human emotions, they do feel them. They know pain and fear, thanks in large to his own race’s actions, but it’s mainly the softer emotions of contentment and affection that make up their natures. Roach is a little different from most of the other Silvers. While he doesn’t understand negative concepts such as anger, violence or hate, he has a sense of curiosity and adventure that seem unusual for his species. As the crew’s time on the Silver planet draws to an end, B first tries to push Roach away, forcing him to rejoin his own society. But as B realises that Imms no longer has a place within his own society, his clan having decided that association with humans brings too great a threat, B makes the decision to bring Imms back to Earth with him.
The author often portrays a very bleak outlook on what it means to be human in The Silvers. My initial gut reaction was that while it is certainly in us as a species, it isn’t as overriding a feature as it was being shown to be at that point in the story. I found it hard to like B for a good portion of the first half of the book, although I did see something in him wanting to fight against himself, something kinder and more caring than he was willing to admit. I found it hard to get past the willingness to harm creatures simply because they don’t fight back and he couldn’t understand that. While most of the crew show, sometimes deliberate and sometimes thoughtless, cruelty, not all of them saw the Silvers as objects to be tested on, cut open and studied. Some of them did have compassion. The overwhelming sentiment may have been the cruelty of humans, but there was that acknowledgement that there is also good in us even when it seems like it is only a small proportion of our nature.
B’s inability to understand Imms’s lack of strong emotion, and by extension the inability of humans to understand those that are different from themselves, forms the core of this story. Even as B slowly falls in love with Imms, he has this need to change him, to make Imms more human, even though it is Imms’s gentleness, his otherness, that is so beautiful. My heart broke for Imms; for his wish to change himself for B and the pain B caused both of them with his inability to see the strength in Imms. I couldn’t understand why B would want such a beautiful soul to feel negative emotions like anger. And I hated that Imms started to. The slow disintegration of them was almost physically painful to witness. I wished B would allow Imms’s gentleness to rub off on him instead. Yet, the author still made me wish for a future for them, that despite it all they would somehow find a way through all the obstacles, including the ones created by themselves, and find happiness together. I felt that the possibility was always there, and B did grow because of his relationship with Imms.
Weeks after finishing the book, I still don’t entirely know what to think about this story. It is so beautifully written, and Imms is a truly special character, but the ending is so unresolved that it’s difficult to see any hope for their future and I was left feeling a mix of emotions, mostly distraught at the thought of their likely future. Maybe that’s on me, though. Even the bleakest of events, where it seems there is no hope left, sometimes surprise us. Sometimes love wins against all the odds, and maybe B and Imms do, too. I guess that’s something we each need to decide for ourselves.
It may have cost me a box or two of tissues, but I do highly recommend The Silvers. It is a book that is well worth the read. The writing is spectacular, the world-building is amazing, the characters made me feel every emotion possible and, most of all, their story made me think.