A Review of J.M. Frey’s Triptych

I’ve been promising to post some reviews of things that I’ve enjoyed on the blog for a while now, so here’s the first: J.M. Frey’s Triptych.

I was excited to read this one. Frey is going to be the Canadian author Guest of Honour at my local SF&F convention, Keycon, and I always try to read some of the attending authors work, if possible. Full disclosure, (for those who get their underpants in a twist about such things) the author provided me with an electronic copy of the book for the purposes of this review. Also, **spoilers** for those who care.

For a little context ab out the book, here’s the publisher copy:

IN THE NEAR FUTURE, humankind has mastered the arts of peace, tolerance, and acceptance. At least, that’s what we claim. But then they arrive. Aliens–the last of a dead race. Suffering culture shock of the worst kind, they must take refuge on a world they cannot understand; one which cannot comprehend the scope of their loss.  Taciturn Gwen Pierson and super-geek Basil Grey are Specialists for the Institute–an organization set up to help alien integration into our societies. They take in Kalp, a widower who escaped his dying world with nothing but his own life and the unfinished toy he was making for a child that will never be born.  But on the aliens’ world, family units come in threes, and when Kalp turns to them for comfort, they unintentionally, but happily, find themselves Kalp’s lovers. And then, aliens–and the Specialists who have been most accepting of them–start dying, picked off by assassins. The people of Earth, it seems, are not quite as tolerant as they proclaim.

Triptych is fittingly told in three parts, with three different voices, Gwen’s mother, Evvie, the alien, Kalp, and Specialist, Basil. Kalp’s voice was probably my favourite. Frey deals with the alien culture very well, and I enjoyed Kalp’s reactions to life on Earth. There is also some great world building and interesting biology and society to Frey’s aliens. I particularly liked the idea of the alien’s family group being a matter of threes rather than twos; one parent to give birth, one to work and provide for the family and the third to care for mother and child.

The gradual insertion of Kalp into Gwen and Basil’s existing relationship was I also totally believed that a segment of humanity would flip out, not only at the prospect of aliens among us, but at us sharing our lives and love with them. I do have hope for humanity’s future (most days) but seeing the hate coming from some opponents of marriage equality, I can only imagine Pat the reaction if that “gay” person was also blue. It was absolutely heart wrenching when Gwen loses her baby because of an attack by such a bigot.

There is a time travel element to the book, which is not my favourite science fiction trope, however, Frey handled it well. I didn’t feel any lingering paradox gnats biting me, and I’m also glad she didn’t use it to obliterate the emotional punch of Gwen’s miscarriage.

All in all, Triptych is fast-paced, highly enjoyable science fiction that really delivers with its characters. Highly recommended!