A review of Paix des Femmes by Brantley Elkins (09Jul03):


PAIX DES FEMMES, which Shadar insists means "Women of Peace" although it actually translates as "Peace of Women," is like no other Aurora Universe fiction ever seen.

When the Artist Formerly Known as Sharon proclaimed on April 1 that the Aurora Universe had "never existed," he was telling the absolute truth  at least from the perspective of what he calls Generation 4. PAIX DES FEMMES is a complete break with previous AU fiction, for the history against which that fiction was set never happened.

Velor and Aria alike were destroyed more than a century ago in a climactic battle called the Turning. Survivors on both sides were few, and most of those left sterile. Extinction would have been inevitable but for the intervention of the Pactrellians, a race of traders and genetic engineers with an agenda of their own who salvaged what was left and created a new race called the Shaadarians.

Like the vanished Velorians, a number of the Shaadarians are blonde goddesses to Earthly eyes. But appearances are deceiving; compared to the Velorians of old, they are cripples. Their powers and abilities, including flight, are far lesser, and derive only from cyborg implants rather than direct access to the life-affirming orgone energy of the universe. Even on the moral plane, they often seen half-like machines in their blind loyalty to their mission.

That mission is to bring peace to Earth by destroying its military capability, and that means destroying not only the machines of war but the men who control them  and anyone else who gets in their way. No guardian angel Protectors these, but rather killer angels who carry out their grim work with calm efficiency -- as Lt. Ramon Lopez finds out one night when the Shaadarian Tala Laut invades his base in what has to be the scariest scene Shadar has ever written.

Laut and most of her fellow Shaadarians believe in their mission, because they have NOTHING ELSE LEFT TO BELIEVE IN. The glorious traditions of Velor and Aria (and we must remember that the Arions regarded theirs as glorious) are as dead as their worlds. The Shaadarians have no cause of their own, only that of the Pactrellians, in whose service they seem to find their only hope of redemption. But when that hope proves empty, as Shadar has already revealed it will...

 On its face, in the 16 chapters posted, PAIX DES FEMMES seems an ugly story of a war of shadows fought by dark forces. And yet there is also beauty here, in the moments of unexpected tenderness and also in the moments of conscience, as when Geneva Som'ers, call girl and assassin,  takes pity on her target -- a senator who has threatened to expose the alien presence on Earth that Lopez had confided only to the highest circles of government. Or when Lana, sister of feared assassin Ayla, spares the life of a man she has been ordered to kill.

There is hope, too, in Margot Helmsteadt, a Shaadarian defector who has gone to ground in Los Angeles and raised her daughter AnnMarie as a Terran. And in men like FBI Special Agent Kendrick Howell, who can not only follow clues but sense the opportunities they lead to -- opportunities that may hold the last best hope for Earth and, although he cannot know it yet, more than Earth.

Raising hairs and raising hopes. That's what's going to keep us reading.

--Brantley Thompson Elkins