Crystal Witness – Kathy Tyers

Crystal Witness Kathy Tyers
Crystal Witness by Kathy Tyers
Published by Enclave Publishing on June 16, 2020
Genres: Fiction, Christian, Speculative
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Her memories are blocked. Her freedom is gone. Her crime is a mystery.
When Ming Dalamani awakens from twenty years of suspended animation, she recalls only fragments of her former life: the life she led before she was arrested by the governing interplanetary corporation, Renasco, for a now unremembered crime.
Relocated to an alien world far from the only home she has ever known, Ming serves a powerful Renasco representative to repay her debt. But daily she lives with deadly threats from two men-the hideous mutant Zardir Huekk and the handsome, secretive musician Tieg Innig-who both want the same thing: information. Renasco-trained as a calligrapher in three dimensions, Ming begins to remember more: a clan, a mission, and interstellar piracy.
Ming must decide where her loyalties lie: with her powerful new employer, with a budding resistance movement... or elsewhere.

Kathy Tyers has been a familiar name in science fiction for nearly forty years. While she’s best known for her short stories and novels in the Star Wars Extended Universe, she’s also written a number of sci-fi novels that are enjoying a second life under the Christian fiction banner at Enclave Publishing. Crystal Witness is Tyers’ third published novel. First released in 1989 with Bantam, it got a makeover for a digital release in 2013 with Greenbrier Book Company before Enclave Publishing (then Marcher Lord Press) bought the rights to backlist and began systematically republishing them. As such, there are elements of the book that seem a bit dated, both in language and feel. This isn’t a bad thing because some of the best sci-fi has to offer comes from that time period and it gives the novel that classic sci-fi feel. Enclave is releasing the book now in preparation for a new, never-released sequel expected sometime in early 2022.

The book follows Ming Dalamani, an artist and calligrapher enslaved to Renesco—a powerful, interplanetary corporation. Ming comes into Renseco’s control after twenty years of suspended animation and a mostly-successful memory wipe. Her enslavement is punishment for something, she just isn’t sure what. But whatever it was, it’s still of some importance. Multiple people press her for information and as Ming begins to remember, she must determine what to do with the information she now has.

Tyers’ writing is top-notch. She moves the plot along at a graceful pace, explaining just enough about her unfamiliar space fantasy world to keep readers balanced between understanding the story and feeling a healthy sense of otherness and mystery. The central tension in the story—whether Ming should trust her “powerful new employer” or a scrappy resistance movement—is rather uneventful. Like there’s ever a doubt which one she’ll choose. Maybe if Tyers had painted Renesco as Ming’s savior or given the Renesco-aligned characters any sense of moral ambiguity, she could have pulled it off better. As is, we all know what decision will be made and we’re cheering Ming along as she places her faith in the resistance.

It’s interesting to read these older sci-fi novels and see how the genre has progressed and how it’s stayed the same over the past thirty years. I’ll be intrigued to see how the sequel fits into this storyline and if Tyers’ writing style has changed much since the book’s original release. Overall, Crystal Witness is a fun book. It’s not outstanding. I wish there had been more development of the events that led to Ming’s enslavement (so yes, I would much rather have preferred a prequel over a sequel). I think the world could have been set up with more clarity. But overall, it’s a fun,  good hard sci-fi read and I’m glad a new generation like myself is getting to discover it through this new edition from Enclave.