Looking Through Lace by Ruth Nestvold
As the only woman on the first contact team, xenolinguist Toni Donato expected her assignment on Christmas would be to analyze the secret women’s language — but then the chief linguist begins to sabotage her work. What is behind it? Why do the men and women have separate languages in the first place? What Toni learns turns everything she thought they knew on its head.
Originally published in Asimov’s in 2003, “Looking Through Lace” was a finalist for the Tiptree and Sturgeon awards. The Italian translation won the Premio Italia for best work of speculative fiction in translation in 2007.
“Looking Through Lace” is a novella of approximately 20,000 words.
So how interesting can it be to read about a woman learning a new language? Well, with the expert grammar skills of the author (she is an English professor), it’s as interesting as humanly possible. This novella length science fiction story started out fairly slow. Its short length is a positive, as I’m not sure I could handle a novel on this topic. That said, it was fasinating watch Toni defragment an alien language using skills that linguistics use in a way that a non linguist can understand and enjoy. Besides the science fiction, there is also a bit of mystery as Toni discovers why her boss is being so difficult and hindering her progress. If you love anthropology or learning how to decode a language, this would be an awesome novella to check out. There is some romance, but due to length it isn’t too developed. If you’re looking for more of a thriller or paranormal story, then this probably isn’t a good choice for you.