Thursday, September 6, 2012

When Language Barriers Attack!

Courtesy of a fellow blogger’s heads up, I’ve been reading DISCOVERY – A FAR OUT ROMANCE (2003; Kindle edition, 2009) by T.M. Roy. The story features an interspecies romance and takes place on contemporary Earth. The neat-o title kept calling to me so I kept nudging the ebook up my TBR pile. Then one night I was completely in the mood to give it a try.

Here’s the blurb:

Naturalist Dr. Kent Xavier flees to his beloved Oregon wilderness to escape a horrendous breakup with his two (and three...) timing fiancee. The last thing he wants to see right now is anyone of the female persuasion, but the midnight rescue of a damsel in distress shoots down that game plan.

Lured by the beauty of planet Earth, Povre disobeys strict orders to remain in camp in favor of a moonlight walk. A bad step on a slope of loose rocks lands her in the very predicament she's supposed to avoid: contact with the dominant native lifeforms.

Forced together by mutual need, Kent and Povre soon find themselves on the run from alien-hunting government agents. Along the way these two scientists from very different worlds discover the most important element of all - love.

What follows are a few thoughts I had about one element in particular. It occurs early enough in the story that I’d considerate it only a very mild spoiler.

While not the first sci-fi romance to feature a language barrier between the hero and heroine, DISCOVERY – A FAR OUT ROMANCE is the first one I’ve read (IIRC) that makes it an integral part of the romance development for a significant amount of time.

While Povre’s society has language translation technology, she is not in possession of it when she meets the hero—and it’s her own fault for not being prepared. (I thought the reason for it was plausible enough and thus she avoided TSTL territory.). Her misjudgment raises the stakes of an already precarious situation.

While working together to escape their predicament, Kent and Povre barrel ahead in their respective languages even as they know the chances of being understood are nil. They rely heavily on their non-verbal communication to pick up the slack. And mental lusting, natch.

It’s not a bed of roses for them, though, and some of the conflict I encountered was a pleasant surprise.

Povre and Kent eventually find ways to overcome the language barrier (and the fact that they're both scientists certainly helped in its own way). For me, some of it happened a little too quickly to be entirely believable. I found myself wishing they could go another few chapters without having any words in common. Or heck, the whole story! Seriously, I would have totally read that--a story that provides insight on just how key the role of language is in a romance. Still, I liked the fact that the author neatly removed the deus ex machina of a language translation device.

The author also created the heroine in an intriguing way. I won’t spoil it, but once I see where the story takes the romance & heat level I might report back about it. The story’s pacing is a tad slow for my taste—having to do more with a need for editing to cut down repetitive content more than anything else—but the author made some interesting creative choices and I’m curious about how certain aspects will play out.

And I really do dig that title!*

Have you read any sci-fi romances that use language barriers to good effect?

Joyfully yours,


Being a fan since childhood of Sid and Marty Krofft’s FAR OUT SPACE NUTS will do that to a woman. :P