Lucas K. Law and Derwin Mak – Where the Stars Rise

At When Words Collide 2017, I heard about this book but I didn’t have much interest in buying it. However the thought of it must have percolated in my memories over the next year because at When Words Collide 2018, I bought it. The gorgeous cover, by Samantha Beiko, helped.

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I’m so glad I did. The fantasy and science fiction in this book is good, really good. I feel for the characters in these stories and the imagery, one story after another,  was fresh and exciting (for me, anyway).

With so many characters to choose from, it was hard to pick only one. However,  the character’s voice that echoed the most for me was Paris Azarcon from Karin Lowachee’s story Meridian.

Being abandoned has a profound effect on us. We lose trust, our sense of security and love. Through no fault of their own, Paris Azarcon’s family abandons him when they are killed by raiders. He fights, literally and figuratively, through that loss, rejecting those around him before they can abandon him, until he finds himself in a place where they won’t let him reject them.

Once he regains this sense of family, security and belonging, he finds a measure of peace, until news comes that disrupts that peace.

He then has a choice; seek out the answer in that news and potentially invite abandonment or stay with the status quo.

I wonder how much influence our past hurts have on our present day decision making. That must be why young people are more willing to take risks. They’ve had less bad experiences to measure the risk against.

As a young man, Paris has the opportunity to take a risk or preserve the status quo. I cheered him on so read his story to find out what he did.

Al Onia – Victor Stromboli

How does a person who cannot forget anything associated with strong emotion move on? Maybe they don’t. At least, Victor Stromboli of Transient City has not when we meet him. He is a witness in a roving mining city, living alone in a temporary tent city, with few friends and no family. Because of his memory, he is able to, with a shock, reconstruct a crime just by being at the crime scene using the sights, sounds, and smells.

When a case comes along with a personal connection, he starts working it, with the possibility of moving up to a detective. The personal connection is a woman named Kathy Whittaker he was in love with when he was twelve years old. Her family moved to another city and she forgets him, but he never forgets her.

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His memory from years ago is now a living entity in front of him and his adolescent feelings propel him to solve her husband’s disappearance. There is a problem with all of this though. Much has happened to both of them in the intervening years and she is no longer the girl he remembers. As Shoes, one of Victor’s only friends, says to him, “…You’ll find what you’re looking for. Make sure you look in the right place.”

If a person could not forget anything that ever happened in their life, how hard would it be for them to move on? Victor is a man stuck in time and the world around him is changing without him noticing. This has left him isolated and alone.

Throughout the book, Victor starts to seek out change by taking on new responsibilities and seeing the people around him for who they are.

If you stare hard enough and long enough at the past, you will stay there. Victor could choose to live exclusively in the past but finds a way to see the present. Al Onia’s biography says “His stories celebrate the potential hero in each of us.” In a world as busy as ours, being able to see what is in front of us is a hero’s skill.

Rogue Town is the next one from Al Onia and I can’t wait to read it.