Ryka Aoki, Light from Uncommon Stars, Tor Books, 2021.
Audio book available on Audible.
There are few books that made me feel what I felt when I read Light of Uncommon Stars. I devoured that science-fantasy novel in less than 24 hours because of how extraordinary it is.
Content warnings below, but please, trust me: you want to read it despite those.
Kristina is a trans young woman who flees her abusive family with nothing much but it includes her violin. Shizuka is a violinist teacher renowned throughout the world. She is looking for the seventh soul she'll send to Hell to save her own. Lan is the captain of a starship who fled her home planet with her family and who knows sell doughnuts in the San Gabriel Valley in the USA. The three of them will meet.
CW: teenage prostitution, transphobic slurs, rape, racist slurs.
DISCLAIMER: I'm not trans. You can read Cheryl Morgan's fantastic review here for a trans woman opinion about Light from Uncommon Stars.
Light from Uncommon Stars is one of those unique books we meet way too rarely. It perfectly combines wonderful characters, amazing writing, and themes that spoke to me deeply.
The plot may sound completely silly: how a renowned violin player takes under her wing a young trans woman whose soul she intends to sell to the devil to save her own, all the while falling in love with an alien refugee who sells doughnuts. Add to that mesmerising descriptions of a violin being, of a Bartòk sonata, a holographic projection who struggles with her own identity and free will, a starship captain who says 'Engage!', and a meaningful take on why humans dislike doughnuts which are absolutely the same every day. Did I mention the aubergines?
Then what is the novel about? Is it about the power of music? About love, both romantic and non romantic? About identity and about trans identity? Yes, to all of that, and more than that too. It is about being human and being yourself.
Aoki's prose carries you throughout the novel. It can be simple and to the point, as it can be lyrical and magical. It's not only the characters or their struggles who come alive thanks to her writing, it's also that she makes you look again at the simple pleasures of the world, at music, at things, and she sublimes them all.
Yes, it will make you angry, yes, it will make you laugh. Yes, it will also bring a tear. Or two. Or maybe you'll need a whole packet of tissues. It will make you feel, because this novel is perfect.
Light from Uncommon Stars would have kept on sliding down my to-be-read list had Cheryl not published her own review about it. And, as she said, it is a fairy tale. One that I would have missed all my life had I not read it. So don't miss it.
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All reviews are spoiler free unless explicitly stated otherwise.
I only review stories I have liked even if my opinion may be nuanced. It doesn't apply for the "Novels published before 1978" series of blog posts.
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