“Longing for Stars Once Lost” by A. Merc Rustad
Reviewed by Stephanie Wexler
Kitshan, in “Longing for Stars Once Lost” by A. Merc Rustad, would rather be peacefully mapping the cosmos and making space travel safe, but has been drafted by his god to make war. Kitshan’s skills as a pilot and later a general are a burden despite his accomplishments. Now Kitshan wanders the universe searching for his dead ship and to honor his promise to his beloved ship who sacrificed itself to save Kitshan’s life. Little does he know something far rarer and precious will interrupt his journey, and it takes all of Kitshan’s abilities to free a starborn. Rustad sets a dazzling universe alight with gods, war, and sentient spaceships to show how sacrificing all that you love to another might be enough to redeem for past actions.
All Flip/Ivan wants is to find out what happened to his brother Jonah/Rash in “Dragon of Dread Peak (Part 1)” by Jeremiah Tolbert. Rash, declared dead when his team is lost in dungeonspace (d-space), forces Flip to lie to his mother about his employement to pursue a possible source of information. Desperate, Flip ignores their group’s previous failures and takes on the job. However, dealing with a dragon spells disaster, considering the players’ inability to work as a cohesive team. It isn’t long before Flip and his band are in over their heads. Tolbert’s dynamic, riven strewn world is fun and believable. Every moment invites shared problems and hitches making it easy to root for every character, good or greedy.
Reeling and bruised from the consequences of their failed mission, Flip/Ivan returns home in “The Dragon of Dread Peak (Part 2)”. So distraught and angry is Ivan that he neglects to change his clothes revealing his secret job activities to his mother. Obviously, his mother isn’t happy, but to Ivan’s surprise his mother reveals that she’d known all along. They talk and soon Ivan has a new and even crazier plan to save his comrade and gain the item to get the information that might lead to his brother. Tolbert sets up a daring rescue, a new mysterious ally and a twist that creates more questions and room for a new chapter. Jump in, buckle up and get ready for a wild ride!
“What I told My Little Girl About the Aliens Preparing to Grind Us Into Hamburgers” by Adam-Troy Castro is a bittersweet half conversation, half wistful monolog by Tanisha’s dad. Knowing their fate, Tanisha’s dad faces an even more daunting task of explaining humanity’s destiny to his four year–old. It is sweet, funny, and truthful as Tanisha’s dad reflects back and forth about what makes a father and dreams what his daughter could have become. Despite the aliens’ careful and respectful way of preparing them for their eventual end, it is the daughter who steals the show. Even though Castro casts a dismal shadow on humanity, Tanisha and her dad still shine with a light even a hungry alien cannot extinguish.