Mother of Demons is, among other things, an interesting take on a first contact situation. The story takes place on an alien planet and we start off reading from the perspective of a few of the different alien characters. We soon learn that a small group of humans has crashed on the planet, and we spend quite a bit of time reading from the perspective of one of those human characters. The aliens are split up into many clans and tribes and, not surprisingly, they don’t all get along very well. Throwing humans into this mix makes things even more interesting.
The aliens are quite different from humans – more like gigantic mollusks, in various forms. I especially enjoyed reading from the perspective of the alien characters when they encountered humans for the first time. However, since I personally haven’t spent a lot of time hanging out with mollusks, I had trouble sometimes with visualizing the alien characters described in the book. I liked the story a lot, but the images it produced in my head were pretty blurry.
I thought this book had a lot of depth to it. It dealt with topics such as prejudice, friendship and love, loyalty, military strategies, biology, and a heavy dose of history. The main human character was a historian. A lot of the time spent from her perspective was spent considering human history from a wide variety of time periods and geographic regions with a particular focus on its military history. While the reader spies on her thoughts, she considers how situations on the alien planet parallel different situations in history, and how the humans’ actions could affect things over the long term.
As much as I enjoyed the story, I did think the book had some dry parts. I’ve never been a history buff, and there were several passages that referred to a large variety of historical events in rapid succession without providing any details. These passages usually meant next to nothing to me. The parts that had more meaning to me were the parts where a single historical event was chosen and elaborated on enough for me to understand the relevance and appreciate the point the author was making. Coincidentally, I’m about to start a history course for school. Although my course only covers a comparatively small segment of history in a single geographic region, I’m sure at least some of the things I learn in the course would have helped me appreciate passages of this book better if I had read it after taking the course.
I liked the characters in the book a lot, especially the alien characters. I liked the human characters too, but the main human character annoyed me sometimes. It seemed to me like, in her attempts to take the long view, she ended up being rather short sighted. I believe she was the only human character from whose perspective we were permitted to read. She might have seemed a bit less tiresome if we could have spent time in some of the other humans’ heads instead. But I really enjoyed the alien characters. Their culture was interesting and well fleshed out. I also enjoyed the interactions between the aliens and the humans.