Reach continues the tale of the humans and the alien Tofa who live on the planet Tofarn. I would recommend reading Twin-Bred first because Reach only gives the bare bones of the characters and their situation. Spoilers for the end of Twin-Bred, obviously.

Publication year: 2013
Format: ebook
Page count: 343 in pdf

The Twin-Bred are the result of the LEVI project which Dr. Mara Cadell created so that the humans and the alien Tofa could better understand each other. Her idea was to produce human/Tofa twins in host mothers. The resulting twins were raised in the project grounds, away from the other societies. The Tofa don’t have facial features, so it very difficult for humans to understand them. They also have four arms and are taller than humans. They don’t have biological (or social) sexes and reproduce with spores. Yup, wonderfully alien.

At the end of Twin-Bred, almost all of the twins involved in the Project chose to leave the increasingly hostile planet on a space ship. A handful of humans left with them; they had all been teachers in the project. Only one Tofa/human twin set, Jak-rad and Randy, chose to stay on Tofarn because they wanted to explore their own cultures.

The starship Star Seed was launched to seek a new home among the stars. However, all of the passengers knew that the journey would be long and most of the crew where put in suspended animation in a rotating basis. They also have virtual reality chambers for a variety of uses. However, then their main astronomer makes a discovery: a stable wormhole which could leave to alien planets.

Meanwhile, back in Tofarn Jak-rad has been imprisoned by the other Tofa who see him (the Tofa don’t have biological sexes but Wyle uses the male pronoun) as a danger to their society. After two weeks, Jak-rad is released on the condition that he will work for the Tofa. Jak-rad is pleased to do so and is sent to a university which monitors reports from Star Seed.

Before Star Seed left, Mara and a couple of others made a horrific discovery; that one of the scientist in the project was looking for a biological weapon against the Tofa. Mara decided to destroy that knowledge but it’s possible that the knowledge could fall into wrong hands and a couple of former host mothers have to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Twin-Bred was very much an idea science fiction and not an adventure story. It explored the themes of understanding and yet on the other hand, hatred and ignorance. Rearch is also not an adventure story but in addition to continuing the themes of Twin-Bred, it also has a lot of exploration of space and culture clashes. Both don’t have much violence but when they do, it’s sudden and leaves a lasting impression.

Reach has many point-of-view characters, but not as many as Twin-Bred had and they are also familiar from the previous book. On Star Seed, Mara is the main POV character with occasional glimpses of the others. On Tofarn, Jak-rad and the host mother Veda are the main POV characters. Most of the characters are quite sympathetic and it’s easy to empathies even with the alien Jak-rad. Mara is a great lead character: a reluctant leader whom the others look up to and then she has to make the difficult decision and live with them. Veda has a lot of secrets to hide while trying to raise a young daughter. Judy was another characters whom I enjoyed: her Tofa twin died in the previous book and she’s trying to cope without him. However, it turns out that something of her twin survived.

I especially enjoyed the second half of the book but saying more about it would be a spoiler.