Changing Vision

by Julie E. Czerneda

Cover image

Series: Web Shifters #2
Publisher: DAW
Copyright: August 2000
ISBN: 0-88677-904-9
Format: Mass market
Pages: 483

Buy at Powell's Books

This is the second book in the Web Shifters trilogy. It does take place fifty years after Beholder's Eye and has a recap, so it could be read on its own. The recap is awkwardly woven into the start of the book, though, and there's a lot of interaction between the subtleties of the previous book and the events of this one, so I recommend reading the series in order.

Esen is one of an exceedingly rare race of energy beings with perfect memory and the ability to take any form. Since the previous story, Esen has gone to ground somewhat, built an inconspicuous life with a persistent identity as one species, and has been watching for new threats such as those faced in the previous book. Over all that time, though, Kearn has been pursuing her, doggedly and largely incompetently. Now, her partner wants to go on a vacation, a new species has made initial contact with the insect race of Panacia, and several complications are about to converge, leaving her vulnerable to multiple forces that seem to know far too much about her.

As before, Changing Vision is told in alternating short chapters, a longer one from Esen's perspective and then a short one from another perspective (usually Kearn or his captain Lefebvre). This can make the book feel a bit disjointed (some of the chapters are only a couple of pages), but it helps with perspective. The reader gets to see the story unfold from multiple angles at almost the same time. It's also good reading for when you may be frequently interrupted; it's rarely long to a stopping point.

Esen's narrative voice continues to be one of the main features of the series, although here she struck me as a bit whiny and less secure. Still, she has her moments, particularly when she spends some time as human. Her rarely-seen human form is at the fore here, posing some unique challenges and showing off her combination of vulnerability, experience, and outlook particularly well. Those scenes make up for some strained relations earlier in the book with her partner.

Changing Vision takes a while to hit its stride; the early chapters I found rocky and somewhat frustrating. I'm not as fond of Esen's Lishcyn form as I was of the Ket she used in Beholder's Eye. Once Czerneda hits her stride towards the middle of the book, though, it's quite difficult to put down. There are a lot of daring plans, close calls, and dangerous enemies here, as well as some nice touches of interstellar diplomacy. Czerneda's aliens don't strike me as particularly likely, but they're a lot of fun and Esen's respect for each one and navigation of their quirks is enjoyable reading.

The emotional story I found less convincing or appealing. Esen spends most of the book fighting with issues of trust, which is a quite reasonable plot, but many of them are triggered by lack of communication. I got frustrated at the characters, particularly at the end of the book when what had been happening became clear, and thought their reasons for not being open and forthright were iffy at best. I dislike conflict based on lack of communication even when realistic. One advantage of the ending, however, is that it takes the series in a new direction and opens up the possibilities for the third book considerably.

I think Beholder's Eye is the stronger book, but Changing Vision is still worth reading and avoids most middle-book problems. It's a natural, if difficult, evolution of Esen's relationship, mixed in with a good adventure and more fun aliens. And the Ganthor show up again, which is always a feature; I think they're my favorite aliens in Czerneda's universe. Worth reading if you liked Beholder's Eye, but you'll probably skim past the awkward recaps in the first few chapters.

Followed by Hidden in Sight.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Reviewed: 2007-10-29

Last modified and spun 2014-12-21