Book Review: Catalyst by Nina Kiriki Hoffman

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Catalyst is one of those novels that when you read it you think to yourself, “that was bizarre.” That’s my general consensus of this novel. I can’t say I loved it, but I can’t say I didn’t like it either. Obviously, as I read this rather fast, it held my attention. Something about it grabbed me and kept me interested. Perhaps it was the sexual content or some deeply hidden part of myself that liked that content. I don’t know. It’s just a bizarre book.
Catalyst starts out on the planet Chuudoku, a colony planet that humans have taken. Kaslin and his family have just moved there because his father is a failed criminal and that was their only option. We soon learn that Chuudoku is a bizarre planet home to strange vinelike plants that infect human hosts with their babies and other strangeness.
Kaslin is bullied at school by an attractive girl named Histly (they are teenagers mind you at that ‘breaking into sexuality’ stage). Histly has strange augmentations that allow her to shoot poison and other nasty things from her fingertips. Then one day while Kaslin is running from Histly, hoping not to become a target for the fingers he doesn’t know about, he hides in a cave in the woods and discovers aliens!
Now, the book was strange. The aliens sort of do things with their tongues, as a rule, and as such there are some very bizarre sexual things that take place, as you can imagine. A romance develops between him and Histly, for some reason, and it’s one of those very bizarre high school teeny bopper romances, only with sex.
Hoffman has an okay writing style. I don’t know how well suited it is for the novel form, but it at least didn’t have me confused or irritated. The novel moves well and reads more like a novella rather than a novel as the plot itself is not very grandiose, though from the description you would think so. I’d say the novel is worth a read, but again, it is completely bizarre. The romance develops almost out of nowhere, though you can imagine that something like that might happen between a bully and the bullied (sometimes kids are like that). The aliens are even more bizarre, taking Kaslin and his mother and augmented them so they have strange new abilities.
It’s bizarre, but I can say I was happy to have read it.

About the Author:

Shaun Duke is an aspiring writer, a reviewer, and an academic. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Digital Rhetoric and Writing at Bemidji State University. He received his PhD in English from the University of Florida and studies science fiction, postcolonialism, digital fan cultures, and digital rhetoric.

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