Opu looked down at the chattering bundle of uncoordinated wings, arms and legs, tumbling about the floor beneath everyon’e feet, and wondered what pitch of evolution she was likely to represent. Her child has just managed to escape for the fifth time from the play-pen that was supposed to be child-proof, and was about to bite the leg of another of the control room staff in in discovery of the different things a beak could be used for.
Opu is a working mother, juggling her important job in energy with childcare, fretting about her growing offspring Opuna, whose behaviour she discusses with her partner, Anapa. Opu is a member of the Ojalie, a hermaphrodite winged race who depend upon capturing the energy from their second sun for power and sustenenance: she is a controller, regulating the power around their planet through numerous stations.
The Ojalie’s orderly life is disprupted by the appearance of a Sun Dancer which sucks the power from their stations, threatening the survival of their planet. They trace the Sun Dancer back to an obscure planet, Perimeter 84926, and dispatch an android called the Kybion to track this world down. Surprise, surprise, it’s the Earth.
Fast forward (or possibly fast backwards, I am not too clear about the time-line) to the English coast in the C19th where a group of shipwrecked passengers encounter the Kybion in a cave. At first it wants to kill them, but then oddly is persuaded to let them live, in fact to go one better, to extend their life by slowing down the ageing process.
Then we go forward (I am sure about this at least ) to the 1980s when a young Asian woman, Gabrielle, goes to stay on her own in her aunt’s remote cottage on the coast. She encounters a stranger, Wendle, who reveals that he is 127, and she becomes involved in an increasingly complex series of events involving Wendle (young and old), a young black policeman called Weatherby masquerading as a butler, somebody nasty called Gunn, telepathic communication, spirits, a watery planet called Taigal Rex, and much else besides. In time we discover who the Star Dancer is, and who is the Watcher of the novel’s title.
Overall I found this an unsatisfcatory novel: there are flashes of charm and invention, but much that seems clunky and maladroit, and too many McGuffins to solve knots in the plot. I do love the cover, though.