Lost in Translation: A Different Way of Communicating
Since the dawn of civilization nations have always needed individuals such as linguists and scribes that understood foreign languages. Even if there was a universal trade language, such people were still necessary for communication and interaction between nations. But such skills don’t come easily and can take years to master. But what if you didn’t need years? What if technology existed that let you understand and translate a language instantly? This is a concept that is at the center of Edward Willet’s novel, Lost in Translation.
Unlike other books where individuals speak foreign languages or use droids or programs for translation, this novel uses Translators. Translators are empaths, individuals capable of sensing other people’s emotions, who are infused with a ‘worm’ creature known as a symbiote. In combination with their empathic abilities, this gives them the ability to translate any language provided that they have injected the proper language programing and are linked to a corresponding Translator.
The Guild, which all Translators belong to, facilitates this communication between the member nations of the Commonwealth, a loose affiliation of planets similar to the E.U. In many ways the Guild is like the Jedi in Star Wars; they act as a neutral third party that does not take sides and keep the peace within the Commonwealth, never interfering. But when war threatens to destroy the Commonwealth, the Guild finds that they may have to break many of the rules and ideals that they uphold.
The S’sinn and Human Translators, Jarrik and Kathryn, are at the center of this struggle. Having lost everything they held most dear in the last war between their people, they are determined to prevent another one. In the process they gain new abilities. No longer are they just empaths, they become telepaths.
As they continue their attempts to prevent an interstellar war, their telepathic abilities continue to grow. They find that they can communicate with each other and interpret each other’s language without translation, impart knowledge to others, and even change the very structure of other people’s minds.
Willet takes an unusual concept and drives it even further; this telepathic ability revolutionizes the art of translation, but it has dark, dangerous aspect to it, aspects that could be abused and exploited. It makes one wonder; if such an ability existed, how long would it be before it was exploited?