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Cover art by Matt Stawicki

Things began so well. Esen and her Human friend Paul Ragem are ready to celebrate the first anniversary of their greatest accomplishment, the All Species’ Library of Linguistics and Culture, by welcoming his family back. He hopes. Having mourned his supposed death years ago, understandably, feelings are bent.
Instead, they’ve unexpected guests, starting with an old acquaintance. Paul’s father has gone missing under dire circumstances.
Before he can convince Esen to help him search, a friend shows up to use the Library. A crisis on Dokeci Na is about to explode into violence. To stop it, Evan Gooseberry needs answers. Unfortunately, the artifact he brought in trade holds its own distracting secret. A touch of very familiar blue. Web-flesh.

The race is on. Paul, to find his father. Esen, to search for a mysterious legacy while helping Evan avert an extinction. What none of them realize is the price of success will be the most terrible choice of all.

“Search Image is the guaranteed most delightful and fun SF read of the year.”

Marie Bilodeau, author of the Aurora-nominated Destiny series

Read an Excerpt

Esen Stories

Web Shifters

Beholders Eye
Changing Vision
Hidden In Sight

Web Shifter’s Library

The Only Thing To Fear
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Belief comes first.

This we are taught. Belief is the fuel, the lure, the guide. With it, each of us shall succeed in our quest to be made whole. To live in the Light. To Rise.

There are no promises when, you understand. Eventually is as good as we ever get and the Ever Dark is rife with despair and rumour. We do not know if those who left before us succeed or Fall. Only that each of us must leave when it is our turn.

You can see why belief helps.

And why I keep my tooth sharp.

1: Garden Morning

When my birth-mother Ansky answered the seductive howls of masculine desire as a Lanivarian, she didn’t have far to go, being at a seaside resort for lonely singles.

Not, as Ersh expected, at a modern art fair gathering information on that species’ trends in aesthetics and new materials for her Web.

Mind you, neither Ansky nor Ersh expected me to be the result, a genetic combination resulting in a Web-being not having occurred before. Proving you can plan ahead all you want, but biology? Will win.

I faced my version of the same quandary now.

Something had consumed every leaf, tendril, and bud from my jamble grape vine. The forthcoming lack of grapes, a favourite of my Lanivarianself, wasn’t the point. Well, it was in the long view, which I usually took, but the problem was more immediate. What.

As for who? My name is Esen-alit Quar, Esen for short, Es between friends or in a hurry. It’s my true name, as the canid Lanivarian is, thanks to Ansky, in a sense my true form–being the one I was born as and the one I resumed the way a Human might snuggle into a blanket.

Much to my Web-kins’ dismay. For I am that as well, a Web-being, able to manipulate my molecular structure at will. With practice. Occasionally I miscalculate and all that stored energy is released in a contained but startling—even to me–explosion. Not a Lanivarian problem, another reason I sought the form when upset.

As today. I poked at the nearest denuded vine. I should have played it safe with a small experimental arbour somewhere else, but no. Having recently been reminded of jamble grapes, I’d ordered a full overarching trellis with seats and a table, along with a patio tiled in a mosaic featuring, yes, grapes overflowing rustic baskets, and it was all now a thorough mess.

“I doubt staring at it will help, Es.” My companion made an earnest attempt to be helpful. “Maybe a local bug took a liking?”

“Can’t be that. The field’s intact.” He knew I’d mean the Kraal military bio-eliminator field I’d had Skalet install over, under, and around the Library Garden, much to my Web-kin’s paranoid satisfaction. “Nothing in, nothing out. That was the agreement.”

One I’d signed with every level of government on our host planet who’d cared that I was importing alien-to-Botharis plant life, as well as a couple who hadn’t but didn’t want to be left out, given the tariff I was willing to pay for the privilege.

My companion and friend, Paul Antoni Ragem, was technically an import, born in space, but he’d been raised from infancy on this very spot, give or take a hill, by a large and close family. Botharans like the Ragems assuredly did not consider themselves imports. Being polite, I kept quiet on the topic, though Ersh, Oldest of us, had a bemused spectator when Humans arrived in space, and Skalet, who’d conspired to be the Kraal version of Human for generations, remembered the conflict over which twig of humanity would first settle this world.

History notwithstanding, today Botharis was officially a Human planet, almost part of the Commonwealth, sometimes aligned with the Kraal, its people cheerfully imagining themselves independent and and remote, until we’d invited the universe to visit on a daily basis. Suffice to say most Botharans weren’t entirely sure who’d let us in and maintained their distance. Until today.