Inverarity (inverarity) wrote,

Book Review: Children of a Different Sky, edited by Alma Alexander

SF&F with a topical flair,

Children of a Different Sky

Kos Books, 2017, 188 pages

A themed anthology concerned with issues around migrants (immigrants, refugees) and their difficult existence. Twelve luminous stories (from authors like Seanan McGuire, Marie Brennan, Brenda Cooper, Pat McEwen, Aliette de Bodard - as well as some writers whose very first published story appears in this collection) and two heartbreaking poems by Jane Yolen make up this charity anthology the profits from which are going directly to two organizations working with migrant populations most directly in need of assistance.

This was another Kickstarted anthology. The theme is immigration — almost all of the stories are SF&F, but the topic is obviously, well, topical, and the anthology was very much motivated by current events. That being the case, if you have issues with politically-tinged sci-fi, your reaction to this collection will probably be heavily biased by your feelings about the immigration debate. That said, most of the stories were not so heavy-handedly political as to be standing on a soapbox waving an axe.

Some were. Aliette de Bodard's At the Crossroads of Shadow and Bone uses a mysterious, eldritch "Maw" as a thin allegory for colonial powers as her not-Vietnamese refugees flee war and drone strikes, and Patricia MacEwen's Forever Boy summons Native American mythological figures to fight an obviously Trumpian regime. But the refugees, outsiders, and immigrants in these stories, while all meant to be sympathetic, are so in the usual way of underdog protagonists struggling to survive in a hostile world. Seanan McGuire's River of Stars is typical of her fantasy, in which a mermaid, a centaur, and a female assassin deliver some retribution to pirate slavers. Randee Dawn's Cannot Find My Way Home uses a conflicted soldier as the protagonist in a story in which the Little Folk of Ireland are the refugees, escaping from the faerie lands to a human Ireland that really, really doesn't want them.

Jacy Bedford's The Horse Head Violin was one of the few non-SF/F stories; I'm not sure if that made it one of my favorites, as the story of Dutch refugees coming to England during World War I needed no fantastic embellishments.

The best purely fantasy story was probably Marie Brennan's Into the Wind, set in a city inhabited by creatures from many worlds who are all immigrants.

A few of the stories were clunkers — tedious and melodramatic and overwrought, including, sadly, the one by the anthology's editor, Alma Alexander. I found her The Bones of Our Ancestors, the Blood of Our Flowers to be a story that just tried so hard in every sentence to make me feel! and understand! and empathize! that I just... didn't, wanting the story (as little of it as there was) to be over. And How Can You Tell Me, by Nora Saroyan, about refugee space Muslims, was just pretentious and didactic as hell.

Overall, a decent if lightweight anthology, clearly put together on a shoestring, but still managing to draw in some well known authors, including a couple of nice poems by Janet Yolen.

My complete list of book reviews.
Tags: books, fantasy, reviews, science fiction

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