Where the Stars Rise edited by Lucas K. Law and Derwin Mak

By Ekta R. Garg

November 29, 2017

Genre: Science fiction/fantasy

Release date: October 28, 2017

Rated: Binge it! / 5 stars

Twenty-three authors come together to offer readers stories in a combined genre that, at first glance, seems to sit oddly: Asian science fiction/fantasy. Long-time readers of both genres may eye this collection with some skepticism. Rest assured, however, that these tales exhibit excellent storytelling. Each piece settles comfortably within the parameters of the science fiction and fantasy categories while at the same time providing glimpses into the beauty and mystery of Asian cultures.

As readers progress with the book, they’ll wonder why more Asian writers aren’t tackling science fiction and fantasy stories. For anyone with an Asian background or knowledgeable about Asian cultures, the connection makes sense. The traditions of the Far East offer a deluge of magic and mysticism; in many cases, those ideas are celebrated and woven tightly into the fabric of Asian societies. It’s an easy stride, then, to science fiction and fantasy. Yet short stories in speculative fiction with strong Asian ties have just begun their ascent, which is probably why the anthology received the title it did.

The stories in this book detail characters all at once familiar and wondrous. The authors relish the risks they take in leading readers across different planets and the solar system. Even though the landscapes may feel unfamiliar the characters’ challenges and questions certainly do not.

The collection includes tales about the following:

Readers will meet a pair of sisters in a post-apocalyptic Tokyo. The girls, orphans, have managed to stay safe and hidden, despite the immense challenges provided by severe food shortages. On the day in the story, though, the older sister knows the two of them will witness great change. Scientists have scrambled to assemble parts to launch a rocket so the Japanese people still alive can alert the rest of the world they exist. The sisters make the arduous trip from their suburb apartment building to downtown Tokyo, certain their horror-filled days are at an end.

A scientist receives an invitation to join a one-way mission to Mars. She finds relief in the opportunity. Life here on Earth has become just too much. A childhood tragedy leaves her estranged from her sister, and the scientist can’t carry the burden of guilt anymore. Maybe, she reasons, that burden will become much lighter in space.

Deep in space a man recounts the many “lives” he’s lived—that is, he started as a younger brother but then became an orphan. He joins a family aboard one ship, only to be told that he doesn’t fit in with that family and will join another. The second ship gives him a brotherhood to join and a comfortable living as a drug dealer—although he certainly wouldn’t call it that—but when he finds his real brother, all his worlds and his old selves collide.

Visitors to the tropical Indian state of Kerala come because of the rumors: a great man they once admired has died, and his son has immortalized him in a way that is horrifying and fascinating all at the same time. The son doesn’t quite understand the commotion. His appa (father) was the most important person to him and almost equally important to so many others. Why can’t they see his gesture as a tribute fitting to the man?

The complexities of the stories and the characters and the stories will delight readers, but they will also elicit a reaction all too familiar to book lovers everywhere: the stories will leave readers wanting much, much more. I recommend readers Binge Where the Stars Rise and also encourage this new subset of science fiction and fantasy.