Review copy provided by the publisher.
For each new technology, there are the first few awkward stories that incorporate it–a story that carefully explains that its characters are sending an electronic mail over their computers–then another handful stories that center on it wholly, making it the point (You’ve Got Mail!)–and then finally the many, many stories for whom it is a normal element of the world, fully incorporated into worldview. Drunk On All Your Strange New Words is not about social media, as if it was a gimmick. It understands social media as an integrated element of modern societies.
Okay, so if it’s not about that, though, what is it about? It’s about Lydia, a human translator for an alien cultural attaché, Fitz, whose species can speak basically telepathically with humans, but only a subset of humans. And the side effects of the conversations include that the humans start to feel drunk the longer they’ve been in a particular alien conversation. It makes the role of a translator a fraught one–as Lydia keeps discovering firsthand. But she likes Fitz, she likes her work, and she certainly didn’t have a lot of other options going back in Halifax (Yorkshire, not Nova Scotia).
Then Fitz is found murdered, and Lydia is one of the prime suspects. Her main skill is conversation with aliens, but now she’s here, there, and everywhere, having to talk to aliens and humans alike, do research, anything at all to track down the clues that she’s getting–some of them possibly from Fitz himself, beyond the grave. Lydia’s always been set apart from the other translators, but now she’s chasing clues around New York City, feeling utterly alone–and her visit to her family may well make things worse. I found her working class sensibilities and her dogged determination appealing as this very science fictional mystery unraveled.