Monday, October 19, 2020

Nerds on Tour: Monteverde: Memoirs of an Interstellar Linguist by Lola Robles

: Monteverde: Memoirs of an Interstellar Linguist

Location: Author lives in Spain, story takes place on another planet

Package Type: novella

Itinerary:  When linguist Rachel Monteverde is sent to the planet Aanuk to document the languages spoken there, she finds a paradise covered in lush, vibrant, beautiful forests and gorgeous beaches, friendly people, and a natural color palette that is nearly overwhelming.  The friendly Aanukiens had been a nomadic people, but now some of them live in a small central village, hosting caravans, traders, and visitors such as Rachel. 

Shortly after arriving, Rachel realizes that the year she's been given is no where near enough time to complete the project. She finds the Aanukien way of life to be idyllic, and she's fascinated by the vibrancy of their language - so many completely different words for blue or red or yellow or orange, so many completely different and complicated metaphors. And yet no words for corruption or lying, no beating around the bush, whatever the Aanukiens are going to say to you, they're going to be direct about it. And their poetry! How they describe compassion and longing and grief!  The scarlet forest dims in comparison to the Aanukien poetry! I'm not a poetry person, and the prose poem about compassion brought tears to my eyes.

But documenting the language of the Aanukiens is only half of Rachel's mission. She was sent to Aanuk to also learn about the Fihdia, a tribe who lives in the caves by the ocean.  Everytime she asks her hosts to take her to meet the Fihdia, the conversation abruptly ends.  Surrounded by visual stimulus, the Aanukiens struggle to comprehend the lives of the Fihdia, who are all genetically blind. When Rachel does finally get to meet with the Fihdia, will they teach her their secret language? Will it cost her the friendships she's already made?

My only complaint is that I wish this book was twice as long. The lead-up to the end feels rushed, I feel like the author had more to say. Or maybe it's just that I wasn't ready for the story to end. 
Travel Log: If, like me, you love language, and people talking about language, and people guessing about how and why languages and metaphors evolved the way they did, and how your environment can shape your language and your language can shape how you think, this is the novella for you.  If you're looking for weird aliens or space battles or intrigue and betrayal, thank you and please exit stage left. 

Monteverde is a very quiet book. It's very pastoral and poetic. Once Rachel meets the Fihdia, there is this whole subtle unspoken conversation about how your immediate life experience shapes how your community uses metaphors, and how your culture will, over time, shape your language to meet what you need. 

Only on the 3rd read through, did I pay close enough attention to the "About the Author," to learn that Lola Robles has low vision, which makes we wonder how much of herself did she put into the Fihdia? She herself may not be able to see 30 different shades of light blue, but that lack doesn't take away from the vibrancy of her life. 
Reading stories like this make me want to binge the podcast Lexicon Valley. 


The Adventure:   4.5/5
The Scenery:   4.5/5
NerdTrip Rating: 9/10 

Follow author Lola Robles Moreno here and translator Lawrence Schimel here. - ed.

[Note: this dossier has been adapted from an earlier review.]
POSTED BY: Andrea Johnson lives in Michigan with her husband and too many books. She can be found on twitter, @redhead5318 , where she posts about books, food, and assorted nerdery.