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City of Pearl

(The Wess'har Wars #1)

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  2,111 ratings  ·  154 reviews

Three separate alien societies have claims on Cavanagh's Star. But the new arrivals -- the gethes from Earth -- now threaten the tenuous balance of a coveted world.

Environmental Hazard Enforcement officer Shan Frankland agreed to lead a mission to Cavanagh's Star, knowing that 150 years would elapse before she could finally return home. But her landing, with a small group

Paperback, 392 pages
Published February 24th 2004 by Harper Voyager (first published February 2004)
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Average rating 3.88  · 
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 ·  2,111 ratings  ·  154 reviews

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4.5 stars. One of the best debut novels I have read in years. Excellent world-building, fascinating aliens and a terrific main character. Looking forwrard to book 2 of the series.

The novel takes place in the years between 2198-2374 and involves an earth mission to a planet called (by Earth) Cavanagh's Star. The planet is already claimed by three alien races: (1) The Bezeri (squid-like water dwellers) who are the planet's natural inhabitants, (2) the Isenj (invaders there to take advantage of un
Mar 19, 2012 rated it did not like it
This book is filled with ideological messages. On top of that it is a slow read. Nothing much happens. There is some walking around some talking and that's it!

But the worst is the ideological messages that are forced on you. No doubt the author is a fan of veganism. In the book the character Aras (the alien) say that he can't smell the meat on Shan (the female lead character) to which she replies something like "no of course not, we don't really need to eat meat some people just like it" What a
Shannon (Giraffe Days)
Nov 07, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2007, sci-fi, favourite
In the year 2198 Superintendant Shan Frankland is looking forward to calling it quits in the Environmental Hazards unit, retiring and finally growing those contraband, non-genetically-modified tomato seeds her father cultivated.

One government minister has other plans for her, though. She is sent to the far reaches of space, a trip that takes 75 years, on a mission that she knows nothing about because it is submerged in her brain, waiting to be released gradually once triggered. She joins a grou
Jul 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
If you're reading this on Goodreads, you'll see I gave it four stars, and honestly, I almost gave it five, but decided not to only because of some uncertainty about the sequel. Not that I've read it, yet, because my public library, for reasons best known to certain city officials, lacks the funding to catalogue paperbacks, so every library expedition is a bit like a dungeon crawl. Does the library own the sequel? Who knows! Certainly not the Public Library! (Mr Katz, I hope to make you the numbe ...more
Kara Babcock
Some science fiction revels in its immersion in the futurescape, that unknowable presentation of technology and society that seems so distantly related to our own. Utopian fiction likes to posit that we will somehow overcome our vices (though, for the sake of story conflict, discover wonderful new ones). Dystopian fiction does the opposite, amplifying our vices with scary new methods of oppression, while also offering the hope of an easy dismantling of the totalitarian bureaucracy, very often by ...more
Dec 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: to-read-ebook, sf
I really enjoyed reading City of Pearl. Most of the authors I read in SF/F are the F side of the genre, so whenever I come across a female SF writer it gives me an extra level of enjoyment. Julie Czerneda remains my SF powerhouse favorite, but I think Karen Traviss is now putting in a good strong bid for second place.

There were some small things I didn't quite like about the book, I'll admit--but they were fairly minor nitpicks. I'll get those out of the way first. The flow of time in the story
I both enjoyed and didn't enjoy this at the same time. For one, it's very extreme in its views. There are little or no greys in the picture, it's basically black and white, this is good and this is terrible. So yes, very preachy. On the other hand, the story was somewhat compelling, and I did enjoy the book as I read more of it. It brings up several interesting points of discussion (even if Shan is very firm on her opinions of said points of discussion).

That said, I disliked the fact that all of
“The Frankland woman says humans have discovered other aliens since our mission left Earth, but it’s not aliens that bring them here. It’s the planet.”

“Detected,” Aras said, correcting Josh almost without thinking. As if other species had no existence until humans chanced upon them and defined them, discovered them. “Have they ever met a species with a more advanced culture than theirs?”

“If you mean technology, no. Culture—well, in our past, humans have discovered other humans with advanced cult
Feb 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Any Science fiction fan
Recommended to Empress by: Found it on GR
I loved the whole series. I am so happy I stumbled upon this and I am so surprised how underrated it is.

The rating of 3.89 indicates a good book, but with less then a 1000 votes I think it says even more. Karen has become one of my favorite writers. She has come up with amazing cultures and aliens. There is a lot of characters in the book and she is developing them with the story. I would highly recommend this.

If you decide to read the whole series this is a statement from the author about the
Aug 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Sci-fi with an evironmental twist? Hmm…It’s not exactly space opera, since most of the story takes place on another planet. It’s not exactly military sci-fi, because the military presence makes up a small part of the cast of characters. It’s a mixture of a little bit of everything. The book touches on everything from religion, environmental policy, the scary possible future of the corporation, family values, ethics in journalism, and human/alien relations. It sounds like a lot, but all of these ...more
Coucher de soleil
Jan 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Just as a note (and here's hoping I don't sound pompous): this is the very first time I give a book 5 stars. However, I thought that in this case it was warranted.

I've read many reviews of this book on different sites and I noticed that many readers seemed uncomfortable with the ideas at the core of it, which is not surprising. The first thing I would say about this book is to acknowledge that the ideas within are extreme.

I don't agree with every principle suggested in this book and I doubt mos
Oct 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sci-fi, alien
One of the best science fiction books I've read. The book flows so smoothly with action, character development and universe building. While this book is the beginning of a series, it is a very satisfying and self contained story. You will want to read the next book (I've already ordered mine).

Just a note about the alien culture, I think Karen Traviss has developed a truly alien culture yet was able to make it accessible. The alien protagonist is one of the most interesting characters in science
Mar 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
In keeping with my practice of cutting slack to debut novels.

Fun read. Well created worlds, though she didn't reveal why the "moon" has a higher gravity than it's "planet." Lots of conflict and confrontations. Nice to see the earthlings at the bottom of the technology pyramid.

I like novels which explore issues. Traviss looks at the effects licensing and patenting genetic-engineered food stuffs. It's sort of the back story, but critical to some people's motives.

Cover Art: don't you hate it when t
Leon Aldrich
Excellent prose. Well written. The dialogue and character interaction reminds me of a Michael Connelly "Harry Bosch" novel (only this one is science fiction).

Her debut novel has made me a fan. Not only will I read more of this series, but I'll dabble at her Star Wars novels as well.
Dec 04, 2016 rated it it was ok
This is the author's first published novel. I didn't realize I'd read several of her later books, in the Gears of War and Halo series. (The prose in the first couple of chapters of this book was eerily familiar to Gears of War.)

Writing was good, but not exceptional. Dialog and descriptive prose are all technically correct. I think Traviss's background as a journalist has taught her to pare down her prose too much. I found myself looking for the loving details that new authors include in
Jonathan Bergeron
Aug 14, 2015 rated it it was ok
An ode to hardcore environmentalists everywhere - City of Pearl

When I was getting my AA, I was single, a few years before I met my wife. I took this Intro to Environmental Science class, because there were a lot of cute girls in the class. I learned a lot actually. I can still pick out a live oak from a turkey oak, slash pine from long leaf pine; point out palmettos and sea oats. I learned that Florida had the largest cedar forest in the world until a whole crap load of pencils were made, so the
Adelaide Metzger
Yes, this is Karen Traviss’ first original novel. Yes, you should read it if you’ve enjoyed her work before. And, yes, there is Karen-drama galore!

As usual, Traviss has an extreme connection with her characters and plays off of our emotions to tell the story. I know I shouldn’t have expectations for books because it throws off what the author may have been trying to get across, but I went into this expecting some kind of Karen-drama moment to satisfy my girly, emotional side. I got what I asked
Clare O'Beara
Apr 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sf
The themes of humans finding a planet already being fought over by other races, and time stretch on long star voyages, are not new to SF but they are new to the characters so we accept how it feels to them.

Seems this was a first published novel so I won't go too hard on it but there were some features I liked and some I disliked. The visions of the future and shifting corporate controls are good. The concept of vegan farmers quietly colonising another planet with basic tech is good though not i
Jeremy Szal
Nov 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: book-collection
One of the most original, startling, innovative and unique sci-fi novels I've ever read. Traviss throws out typical action sequences and prefers the subtle moments where the line between "animal" and "human" are blurred. It could qualify for the label of literary fiction and be studied in universities if the requirements for the "brilliantly and artistic novels" (novels, ha!) weren't so utterly pretentious. Pearl has none of those things. No preachy "I-told-you-so" lessons; no unrealistic plot p ...more
Jun 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sf-fantasy
Tough human cop Shan and alien superwarrior Aras meet on a planet whose vulnerable aquatic residents are being protected from being wiped out by other aliens. They bond, and he gives her that Certain Gift (if gift it be). Then Earth makes contact with the invaders. Strong themes of responsibility, particularly for natural environment. Action scenes are well done, characters are uncomplicated but not stereotypical, the pacing a touch slow but not obnoxiously so. Looking forward to the sequels.

Sep 10, 2011 rated it liked it
I enjoyed the plot line thoroughly and eagerly looked forward to the sequel. However with each new book the author's underlying neo-fascist politics became more and more pervasive and now the entire series has left an unpleasant taste in my mouth. ...more
Dec 30, 2019 rated it liked it
Recommended to DarkHeraldMage by: Crouton
I wasn't originally going to pick this up based solely off the synopsis, but after multiple others in my book club said they enjoyed it, I grabbed it and dove in. I fully agree with the widespread consensus that the first 20% of the book is a confusing mess of terms and ideas that are difficult to understand, but getting past them and into the real worldbuilding and character growth does ultimately pay off. I am happy to have read this, and will certainly finish the series in time, if only to fi ...more
David King
Nov 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
The story is set at a time when various governments have merged together in an attempt to combat the growing powers of corporations. The main protagonist, Shan Frankland is a police officer for one of these governments who is preparing to retire from her duties in Environmental Hazards unit. However, when a government minister then offers her the chance to visit another world she decides to take on one more job. Her team of scientists and marines are heading out to the only habitable planet know ...more
Aug 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
I really love the female protagonist in this book and was taken by the moral quandaries about personhood that the book raises. Well paced and well written, and I’m definitely considering reading the rest of the series.
Sep 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
(Review originally posted on my livejournal account:

Why I Read It: This was calico_reaction's Dare for the month of December as well as the selection for The Women of Science Fiction book club.

When I first cracked open this book, I think it's worth mentioning that I had little to no idea what it was actually about. I had even avoided reading the summary for the book. I had reasonably high expectations for it because of calico_reaction's original review f
Mar 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
City of Pearl is one of those great books that lift you up over your culture and let look down and think what is this strange thing we do? Why do we do this? It’s a neat trick that not all writers can manage, but science fiction in general is a great source, I think. A bit like Shakespeare setting his plays commenting on current events in the far past and in different countries, except in the far future and on different planets. I originally picked this book up over a year ago because I really o ...more
That thing with seeds? Not science fiction at all. We are really close to being there.
Mar 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I first discovered Karen Traviss while reading a Star Wars novel that she'd written, and at the time I remembered thinking that she was far too good of a writer to be stuck writing movie tie-in novels. If I thought that before, it's definitely been reinforced after reading City Of Pearl, the first novel in her "Wess'har" series.

This novel stars Shan Frankland, a police officer in the European Union's environmental hazards division, who is sent along with some scientists and marines to track down
Dec 02, 2014 rated it liked it
This is a intriguing book- it is the first in the series (Wess'har Wars )which follow both characters and places first introduced in this book. I don't want to mention too much of the later books as they rather give away some of the surprises implied in this book - I know that is always the danger of a sequel but considering how heavily this book relies on them it does feel like a bit of an achilles heel.
The book however does suggest some interesting ideas and I must admit I do enjoy books where
May 23, 2011 rated it liked it
City of Pearl should have been an ordinary book. It was part Huff and part Weber. It was Starbridge and Uplift. It was a reasonably well-written book, with a typical plot and expected characters. But there was more to it than the usual trope that comes with an alien exploitation novel. The talent that Kareen Traviss has in telling the story is what makes me so pleased with having spent time with her. There were lectures about individual responsibility that were inextricable to the lectures about ...more
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Anyone know if there will ever be an audiobook version? 1 1 Jan 01, 2021 03:46AM  

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#1 New York Times best-selling novelist, scriptwriter and comics author Karen Traviss has received critical acclaim for her award-nominated Wess'har series, and her work on Halo, Gears of War, Batman, G.I. Joe, and other major franchises has earned her a broad range of fans. She's best known for military science fiction, but GOING GREY and BLACK RUN, the first books in her new techno-thriller seri ...more

Other books in the series

The Wess'har Wars (6 books)
  • Crossing the Line (Wess'har Wars, #2)
  • The World Before (Wess'Har Wars, #3)
  • Matriarch (Wess'Har Wars, #4)
  • Ally (Wess'Har Wars, #5)
  • Judge (Wess'Har Wars, #6)

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