A Thousand Word for Stranger by Julie E. Czerneda – a review

In the opening chapter we meet a woman without memory on the run, driven by strange compulsions to leave the planet and trust no one. Julie E. Czerneda’s debut novel is a tale of species survival, choice and love and this is my review.

Title: A Thousand Words For Stranger
Series: Trade Pact book 1
Author: Julie E. Czerneda
Genre: Science Fiction | Romance
Cover art: Luis Royo
Paperback: 464 pages
Publisher: Daw, 2007: 10th Anniversary Edition (1997)

Order from: Daw | Amazon US | UK | B&N | sfbok

Foreword by the author: pdf

My reviews of other works by Julie E. Czerneda: Species Imperative Series: Survival | Migration | Regeneration

The tenth anniversary edition of Julie Czerneda’s debut science fiction novel, the story of a woman on the run, from the law, her own people, and an unknown pursuer. Her memory taken from her by a stasis block, Sira must stay free long enough to regain her identity and the full use of her telepathic powers-for failure may cost not only her own future but that of her entire race.


I read the 10th Anniversary Edition with an introduction by the author (See link above) and a bonus story Brothers Bound (see below).

The Clan Chronicles is three trilogies about species survival. The Clan has great mental powers and they tend to breed for it. The Trade Pact trilogy takes that down to the practical level. How does one proceed when evolution produces individual power too great for any presumptive mate to survive?

A release related to this series is Rift in The Sky (Stratification Trilogy book 3) July 6, 2010. The Stratification trilogy is a prequel about the Clan’s origin. Julie is also working on a sequel, The Reunification Cycle where the Clan finds its way home.

The principal characters in this novel are Sira di Sarc, a Clan woman without memory and a blue-eyed starship captain named Morgan. And it is a story about the power of love and freedom of choice.

The Author

Julie is a Canadian science fiction and fantasy writer with, to judge by what I read by her so far some great Big Ideas, well developed and easy to love characters and some hard science beautifully and skillfully presented. Her ideas are often based in her field of expertise as a former biologist.

World Building

This is Julie’s first novel but you wouldn’t guess that from the competent writing. The setting for this tale is a future where a multitude of species has formed an interstellar trade pact regulating trade and other interspecies dealings. Humans are part of the Pact but the human-like Clan with their mental powers choose to stay outside while residing inside the Trade Pact.

Legend has it the Clan once left their home world by teleporting away. Now their population of a few thousands is declining in numbers and something has to be done.


Sira don’t even know her own name when she has to flee the scene where her escort is attacked. She is driven by compulsions to leave the planet with a blue-eyed starship captain named Morgan, but she is not sure she can trust him. She is pursued by pirates, Clansmen (different ones with different agendas) she no longer trusts or know and Trade Pact Enforcers determined to find out the truth.

We know from the beginning she is a Clans woman named Sira di Sarc with her memories and powers locked down, but she doesn’t know and none of us know who she really is. She start to call herself Sira Morgan (star traders are often families and she wants to avoid notice) and make a life as crew, while trying to avoid  pursuers and learn the truth about her past. Quite unsurprisingly she starts to develop feelings for Morgan. This will lead to trouble down the road as the Clan is very contemptuous towards other species.

Before it is over she has to confront Sira di Sarc, the power within her, her spiring feelings for Morgan, The Clans restrictions on freedom of choice and maybe the survival of her specie.


The narration shifts between Sira’s storyline told in more intimate first person and shorter interludes told in third person about Sira’s pursuers. The interludes also help the reader with the big picture that often suffers in first person (what the character sees is what you get). It is quite clever for a first novel in my opinion. Some authors go the other way and add main characters, an option that I’m not fond of because it deludes my focus.

Sira being without memory could easily have become her only reacting to what is happening. Happily here she develops a new personality Sira Morgan, and she goes her own way, surprising both the other characters and the reader. As she slowly learns more about herself it also creates an interesting dilemma, who is really the real person? She is afraid what her Clan personality could do to her and to her feelings towards Morgan.

My View

This is very much the way I like a good science fiction to be; there is a mysterious alien race, in this case with mental powers, a female protagonist that acts,  grows and has to overcome obstacles, and a human interest angle with the spiring romance between Sira and Morgan. A Thousand Words for Stranger is a clever biology lesson dressed up in an entertaining character adventure. This is not nonstop action or overly romantic or opera like, this is an ordinary tale about people who feels real. This book is a good place to start with Julie E. Czerneda’s writings and it has my warm recommendation.

Brothers Bound – Bonus Story

Included in the 10th anniversary edition. Brothers Bound is an endearing tale about an alien and his dog. It is from the time humans was rather insignificant in the Trade Pact and it helps to explain how they evolved to become important as they are at the time of the Trade Pact novels.