Book Club: Light from Uncommon Stars

** Beware of spoilers **

For the month of February, the Book Club selection was Light from Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki.

Published by Tor Books in 2021, the story’s themes are contemporary: the co-protagonists are a trans-woman and a lesbian who has an affair with an alien character. Another character represents another marginalized group – a woman repressed by the men in her family. The setting is in the Asian communities in California. Many scenes take place in Asian restaurants featuring Asian food.

The genre is science fiction/fantasy. The sci-fi trope is “aliens among us.” This element is very light since the encounter takes place on Earth, the same as the previous month’s pick, The Humans. For me, this setting minimizes the sci-fi element. I associate sci-fi stories on Earth with dystopian worlds, and alien encounters set on distant planets colonized by humans. On the other hand, the “deal with the Devil” fantasy trope works well, and it’s more at the core of the tale.

The multiple POVs made for good pacing and include other characters besides the co-protagonists. Though I’m not sure all of them are necessary. Lucy/Lucia’s POV is interesting, and I enjoyed learning about the work of a luthier. Though other less predominant POVs didn’t seem to have much relevance. Perhaps, some misdirection. Otherwise, I couldn’t figure out their connection. Others in the group found more relevance in these minor POVs.   

To summarize, what worked for me:

  • A non-human/alien character, the violin. Such a beautiful instrument whose music has an emotional pull on people like me.
  • The flow and style of the writing is indicative of the author’s MFA in Creative Writing.
  • The strong message that people should be judged based on their merit, not their race, age, gender, religion, or disability. None of these characteristics should be used to judge a person’s value or worth.
  • A couple of the twists like one of the characters being an android for all intent and purpose. Also, the unexpected turn at the end. I didn’t see it coming at all, and it made a predictable ending less predictable.

What didn’t work for me:

  • The length of the book didn’t work, which should be no surprise to those who read my reviews. Though it wasn’t as annoying as other books we’ve read for the Book Club. To this point, the narrative gets repetitious at times. See the next point.
  • The story got a little too preachy towards the end. Co-protagonist, Katrina eloquently portrays the prejudice endured by the LGBTQ community. Throughout the story, it is clear how she felt about herself, how the discriminatory treatment affected her self-esteem. I felt that there didn’t need to be a dissertation about it.
  • Katrina’s constant apologies. I get that it was part of her character development, but it got to be a bit too much for my liking. I didn’t need for her to continually apologize to understand that it is common behavior of a repressed person. Thankfully, Shizuka told her to STOP apologizing!

Overall, a good story. What I liked far outreached what I didn’t like about it.

Next up: Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams.

Until then, happy reading!

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