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Dissonance, by Rae Bruner, is about Sarah and James, two researchers at fictional St. Stephens University, who have discovered a previously undocumented life form, dubbed "Pandora". In addition to dealing with this startling discovery, they are also dealing with some personal issues. There's also a good amount of humor, usually involving James.
- Baby Talk: Sarah talks this way to keep Pandora calm and distracted while James takes a blood sample.
- Cats Are Mean: James' pet, Jason.
James(on a mouse whose body Jason has been playing with): It's... it's not dead. You've... just been toying with it's broken body all night long? Keeping it just barely alive so you can watch it squirm and suffer?
- Closer to Earth: This seems to be Sarah and James's relationship at first, but it's more that the two function differently--James adapts awkwardly to any situation, but adapts nonetheless, while Sarah has perfectly adapted herself to normalcy, and can't handle abnormal situations. (Notably, James is much less prone to insisting that something is impossible when it's clearly happening, though Pandora's strange enough to break even his composure at times.)
- Curious as a Monkey: Pandora.
- Cuteness Proximity: Gen can't wait to play with Pandora when she sees her. Once Sarah picks her up, she's reluctant to let her go. Or stop baby talking at her.
- Dark and Troubled Past: One for each main character.
- James lost his father to Alzheimer's Disease, which apparently destroyed his faith in god.
James: When my mother died, my father always told me that god had a plan for those he allowed to pass. But god took my father years before he finally allowed him to pass.
- Sarah (a lesbian) really wants to be a mother, and has for a while. She was inseminated once, but developed ovarian cancer, which she almost didn't recover from. She's no longer sure fate wants her to be a mother.
Sarah: I think if I were meant to mother, there would be at least one positive sign.
- It's also been revealed that when her "bible-thumping parents" found out she was gay, they refused to let her live in the same house.
- Deadpan Snarker: James.
- Deep-Immersion Gaming: We first see Gen shooting a teammate for not following her directions in an online game.
- Deliberately Monochrome: The only color that regularly appears is yellow, although brown appears occasionally, and blood is sometimes red.
- Good Shepherd: Pastor Peter.
- Healing Paws: A mouse with a presumably broken spine starts moving again after some contact with Pandora. This trope is mentioned, but James points out that he only assumed it had a broken spine because it wasn't moving when he found Jason tormenting it.
- Humans Are Bastards: Referenced;
James: It's had so little contact with humans it hasn't learned it should be scared of us.
- I'm Taking Her Home with Me: Gen wants to do this with Pandora. Sarah describes this as "Break[ing] every university policy, natural law, residential code and several rules of common sense."
- Instant Web Hit: In order to prove Pandora isn't a hoax, James and Sarah upload some video footage to the internet. Sarah's friend Gen also does this, but her video is tellingly titled "Adorable Dora". It gets over 4.7 million views overnight.
- Mama Bear: Pandora suddenly turns vicious to protect an injured mouse.
James: Why is she so protective of that mouse?
- Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Word of God is that, while the story will have religious elements, Pandora will never be proven to be supernatural in any way, nor will she ever be proven to be natural.
- Mix and Match Critter: Sarah observes that Pandora has elements of Canidae, Mustelidae, and Procyonidae, but with unusually large eyes for any of those families, and with a brain more like a primate's--and bipedal to boot! James believes that her very existence will require a radical reorganization of a lot of evolutionary family trees--unless, of course, "the only explanation is . . . extraterrestrials." (Genetic engineering has also been suggested, but only the military might have the resources, and Pandora's clearly not intended as an Attack Animal.)
- No Antagonist
- Scary Shiny Glasses: James, although it only kicks in when he gets excited about science. (Sarah gets a different effect--her glasses turn opaque, and she looks over them with red eyes.)
- The Trope Formerly Known as X: James named the revived mouse "Lazarus", or "Lars" for short, because "the mouse formerly known as mangled carcass" would be too long.
- Wham! Line: Pandora gets one via a single word: "Yes." This is the first sign that she can mimic human speech, even if she doesn't understand it yet.
- Why Did It Have To Be Mice?: Show Sarah a mouse outside of a cage, and she will scream. Loudly.
Sarah: I don't mind them when they're safe in their cages but loose mice running around make me... uneasy.