Thursday, March 12, 2015

Catati Test (e-short story) by Misty White

"Catati Test" is a science fiction short story, the first in Misty White's Catati series. It has a word count of 4,950 (according to Smashwords). Or possibly 3,800 (according to the beginning of the e-book file).

No read-alikes list for this one. Also, my review includes some things that may be considered spoilers.


This was one of my freebie downloads. The next few entries in the series are just as short (about 5,000 words) and about a dollar each, so I was curious to see whether they'd be worth it. The short answer is: I think I'll pass.

The Catati first made contact with humans when Tammy was in high school. By the time she was ready for college, the Catati had decided to allow humans to take the entrance exam to get into one of their schools. Tammy was overjoyed to be one of the first humans to attend the Catati school, until she kept failing a class that Catati children passed with ease. After her most recent failure, Tammy chats with Yakí, her Catati friend, and realizes to her horror that the Catati must have given humans an easier version of the entrance exam.

The one thing I liked about this story was Yakí. He seemed to be very laid-back and kind, and he was certainly far more patient with Tammy than I would have been. Human-Catati relations must be pretty good if Tammy can yell at her friend without worrying about causing an interplanetary (intergalactic?) incident.

Now for the rest. Although the writing was mostly easy to follow, there were a few sentences I had to reread several times. For example:
“With an expression she understood to be humored, Yakí shook his head in assent.” (9)
Should “humored” have been “humor”? Or was Yakí humoring her?

The lack of detailed descriptions bugged me, too. I knew that Yakí's skin and hair were golden brown, he had bony ridges on his cheekbones, and his eyes were silver. Unless I missed it, no other details about Catati appearance were mentioned. I think I was supposed to assume that they were humanoid, with faces much like those of humans, except their body language was so radically different that I didn't feel like those were safe assumptions.

In the end, it was Tammy who led to my decision not to continue reading this series. While I wouldn't mind reading more about Yakí, I'm not sure I could deal with more stories starring Tammy. She bothered me right from the beginning, when she literally beat her head against a tree in frustration.

For some odd reason, Tammy saw love and romance in everything. When Yakí was nice and offered to let her try Catati food, something no other human had ever been allowed to do, Tammy's first thought was that, if he were human, she'd think Yakí had a crush on her. I have no idea how she came to that conclusion, just like I have no idea why she asked Yakí if he was in love with a Catati woman he happened to be looking at. I have a feeling that at least some of Tammy's leaps of logic were meant to pave the way for the romance at the end of the story, but it was awkward and made Tammy seem foolishly prone to assumptions for someone who might end up being the first human intern on a Catati spaceship.

I'll finish off with the stuff that made me flinch. At one point, Yakí mentioned that he didn't have the near-photographic memory that most of his people possessed, and that he therefore wasn't passing his exams as quickly and easily as most Catati. I did not expect this to lead to another Catati referring to him as “retarded" in a derogatory sense. I would love to know how aliens who don't understand the meaning of "aye" added "retarded" to their English vocabulary. Even worse, later on Tammy admitted to herself that she loves Yakí:
“She was in love with an alien. A retarded alien.
...Well, she could’ve done worse.” (13)
Well, I wish Yakí had done better.

If the stories dropped Tammy and/or introduced a different human protagonist, I might have considered trying another one, but the descriptions tell me Tammy sticks around and she and Yakí eventually get married. Ugh, no.


The story ends a few pages early and continues with an excerpt from "Yatorun Transport," the next entry in the series.

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