I Am Sheffrou
By Cami MIchaels
Self-published, $14.95, 281 pages, Format: eBook
City Book Review
Star Rating: 4 / 5
Tamara Walsh is a wife, mother, and physician. In general, she is a perfectly ordinary woman. However, she finds herself in an extraordinary situation when she falls through a wormhole and lands on another planet, a place populated by aliens with unfamiliar biology and even stranger customs. Though she yearns to be back home, there is little chance of her being able to return without another wormhole. So until one appears, she will have no choice but to wait and do her best to acclimate to her new home. Luckily, she finds a close friend in Maashi, the alien who first found her and devoted himself to taking care of her. Somewhat less luckily, her feelings for Maashi soon grow complicated, evolving into an attraction even she cannot understand.
Overall, I Am Sheffrou is a fascinating book and an impressive debut for the author. It reminds me of the classic science fiction stories I read when I was much younger, when explanation was far less necessary than exploration. The aliens (whom Tamara calls Chamis, a shortened version of their true name) have a well-thought-out culture and history, both of which are necessary to the plot. Tamara serves as an everywoman, showing readers the aliens' culture through a human lens, with all the various human biases that entails. Unlike an average everywoman, however, Tamara has more desires than just to get back home, and she acts on those desires. She may not always have full agency (it isn’t easy to when you’re treated as a curiosity and pet) but all the agency she does have, she uses to her best advantage.
But why only four stars, if I’m so impressed? I enjoyed the book a great deal and am excited to see where the trilogy goes next (keep an eye out for book two, Betrayal). However, at times, I found myself underwhelmed. I would have liked to see more introspection from Tamara, especially regarding her shifting attitudes toward the world she was trapped on, and some of the story beats felt oddly placed. Neither of those things bothered me enough to make me dislike the book, though; they were only occasional, nagging annoyances. On the whole, I enjoyed how the story was so different from what I’ve come to expect from science fiction. I said before that it’s heavier on exploration than explanation, and exploration takes up the vast majority of the book. Most of it is also devoted to Tamara learning about the Chamis’ culture, and if you enjoy thought experiments of that nature, I Am Sheffrou is not one to miss.
Reviewed by Jo Niederhoff