Shom Reuel is the other non-human on the Kestrel crew, along with Balitoth, whom we discussed last week. He is Altairian. I couldn’t find a picture on the internet to show what he looks like, but he reminds me a little of JarJar Binks, but much more intelligent, and without the ears!
Reuel is humanoid, two metres tall and gangly, with long fingers and toes. Instead of hair, his head has cranial spines, like a coxcomb, which rise when he is excited or agitated. Altairians also have a strange kind of singing or humming, which they do unconsciously, especially when stressed. It can be very soothing or very irritating.
Their voices are melodious, which, along with their diffident manner, can be deceiving, as they have no problem with violence for the right reasons. Reuel can seem rather silly sometimes, but is actually very intelligent. Altairians live three times as long as humans.
Altair has a lower gravity than Earth, and since the artificial gravity on the Kestrel is set at Earth normal (1G), Reuel wears a back brace on board. However, when in a low-gravity environment, there is no-one more graceful or adept than Reuel. In Intruders, he goes to help rescue Dr Robinson out on the surface of an asteroid, and almost seems to fly in the minimal gravity. The oxygen is also lower on Altair than on Earth, so his skin is very pink in the higher oxygen on board.
Reuel is keen to learn about humans and often asks about some custom or form of words he has not met before. The Kestrel crew do not always have the time or patience to answer his queries. In contrast, there is a lot about Altairians which is not known. Particularly the structure of the family and their mating practices, which are simply not talked about. They introduce other Altairians by name, without any indication of relationship.
Surprising then, to find that Balitoth and Reuel develop such a friendship that they visit one another's families while on leave (in a later story). They do not share what happened or their impressions of each other's families with anyone when they return, much to the disappointment of the other crewmen.