on March 29, 2011
JM Frey's Triptych is an outstanding debut novel and a welcome and refreshing addition to the genre of Canadian science fiction. Brimming with richly detailed characters and a complex nuanced plot, the narrative universe contained with Triptych is captivating and engaging from the intensely vivid first opening sentences through to the stunning conclusion.
When a previously unknown race of aliens arrives on Earth - the few remaining survivors from a distant destroyed planet - humanity has to learn to adapt and adjust to the inclusion of a foreign species. As humans and aliens interact and learn the ways of each others' civilizations, both slowly begin to change unexpectedly. Each must come to terms with their own collective culture shock and confront their own assumptions and embedded social beliefs.
Specialist Gwen Pierson and Specialist Doctor Basil Grey are members of the Institute, formed by the United Nations when the alien refugees initially appear, nearly dead and desperately seeking a new home. Recognizing the complexities of how humans would react to the inclusion of aliens into the global community, the Institute is created to help the two cultures learn from one another, and more specifically, to assist the aliens in adapting to human customs and traditions. Kalp, an alien engineer, is assigned to work with Gwen and Basil and over time, an intimate loving relationship develops between them in new and unexpected ways. Frey keeps the reader constantly and consistently on edge as the story unfolds, moving back and forth in time/space, across countries, and between three differing character perspectives. Nothing is by chance, nothing is trivial, and even the most innocent seeming of background events has significance and meaning.
Triptych can be enjoyed as an entertaining and clever literary feast filled with alien encounters, time travel, a sexy romance, and highly amusing references to contemporary popular culture. But at a deeper level, the novel sensitively addresses many contemporary social issues being confronted globally. Through the relationship of Gwen, Basil and Kalp, larger questions surrounding human norms of sex/gender roles, sexuality, the family, love, personal identity, marriage, social inequalities, xenophobia and prejudice, tolerance and acceptance, technological reliance, and the roles of the military and scientific communities are posed and explored. The novel is highly imaginative and filled with big multi-layered ideas and thought-provoking themes that challenge the reader to reflect upon the most basic and profound of philosophic inquiries into the nature of humanity and the human condition.
As a writer, Frey has a keen eye to detail, giving depth and meaning with every carefully crafted sentence. Her style is wonderfully witty, elegant, and a delightful pleasure to read. As a result, Triptych is an emotional novel, one that captures the reader to the point where what is felt and experienced by Gwen, Basil, Kalp and other characters is made real and authentic. They are not perfect beings and, throughout various points in the storyline, are shown to be prone to errors, misjudgments and flaws even as they reflect the best attributes and traits of what people (and aliens) are capable of achieving.
A beautiful and moving exploration into the human soul from an incredibly talented Canadian author, Triptych is an absorbing novel from beginning to end, and one that will strike a chord and resonate with many readers. It can be read and reread multiple times, and each time the reader will find new meanings, insights and revelations. A love story, a mystery thriller, a science fiction tale - all of these serve as the compelling backdrop to that which is Triptych.
on March 23, 2011
Triptych is an emotional literary science-fiction novel that will leave your heart aching. I laughed, I cried, and everything in-between. The characters are ordinary people doing their best to cope and adjust to the extra-ordinary events they are faced with. There are so many layers to this story that a second and third read will definitely reveal more to its depth in characterization, plot, and undertones.
J.M. Frey challenges the science-fiction genera and bridges the line into literature by presenting a refreshing and intelligent look at the typically over done 'aliens come to earth' plot. The wit, social commentary, and pop culture references keep the reader present in this very real look at our not so distant future. Nothing in this novel is without reason. There are no cheap shots or tricks, if it is written it is important and it will have you guessing right up to the end.
Triptych is a complete story that should be added to the list of Canadian classics and your bookshelf.
on April 11, 2011
Triptych has everything you could want from a good sci-fi story - and more. Engaging characters created with care and respect and a healthy dollop of humour; a plotline riddled with twists and turns (through the fabric of time and space, no less); and yes, strange but true in a science fiction novel, love, romance, even sex... and galactic interspecies genderflexible at that. (Did that make sense? it will). There are even chickens... but not in the sex scenes; that's kinky. And yes, there's a big red button. You'll need it. That and a good cuppa tea.
Seriously... a fine read. Compelling, thought provoking, grin inducing and yet able to reduce me to sniffles too - but I'm a sucker for a good story, and Triptych provides.
on April 10, 2013
i guess i'm really late to review this but it was a fun read. time travel, three different perspectives, fun world for the characters, again you likely won't get bored with the material if you have any imagination whatsoever and were a child of the 80s-90s.
the relationships between the principal characters may be hard for some to get used to but Frey presents it in a manner that should be easy to digest for all but the ultra puritans. (hey its just a story in an imaginary world anyhow )
i look forward to reading her next longer work, hopefully she makes it as fun and light as this one, she can tell a good tale, its a shame i don't see much more story in this particular world she created but it was fun while it lasted.
best of luck to you J.M. on your future writings
on April 6, 2011
In Triptych, J.M. Frey takes a global first-contact story into
microcosm as compelling domestic drama. She inhabits the alien, not
as invader, or ambassador, but in a refreshing take as awkward,
down-on-his-luck houseguest. Her characterizations include great
sensitivity, nuance and imaginative detail. On top of all this, she
successfully sets up a conspiracy that jumps through time for its
payoff. Frey is a talent to watch.