Razor’s Edge by Martha Wells
I last read a Star Wars novel in 1998. I was seventeen and still very much enamored with notions of the Force. I lost interest, at the time, because the ‘expanded universe’ began moving further and further away from the core of what made Star Wars special–its characters.
The problem with an ‘expanded universe’ is that at some point authors run out of time and space to tell stories about beloved characters. It becomes impossible to find a new story to tell without continuing to age them to the point they’re no longer capable of performing the feats required by an interesting adventure tale. Of course, Harrison Ford pulled it off in The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Right?
Del Rey and the Star Wars franchise are attempting to solve that problem with a new line of stories set between the end of Episode IV: A New Hope and Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. It’s a chance to give long time fans of the franchise another bite at the apple that is Leia, Han, and Luke. To make the whole package much more appealing, they recruited a trio of dynamic writers from outside the Star Wars family to write them. The first of those is Razor’s Edge by Martha Wells.
Wrapped up in a package that’s the science fiction equivalent of sword & sorcery, Razor’s Edge is a quick fling one-off story of Princess Leia’s encounter with a pirate colony en route to an Alliance rendezvous. There’s something of the grunge associated with Jabba’s Palace, and the tension filled escape from the Death Star after the destruction of Alderaan. With a cast of characters studded with women, Wells gives Star Wars a fresh take, where Han and Luke are the side dishes to Leia’s entree.
For fans of the franchise Razor’s Edge is definitely worth a read. I’ll be keeping my eyes open for the following two volumes in the ‘series’ to be written by James S.A. Corey (Honor Among Thieves) and Kevin Hearne.
The Lowest Heaven, ed. by Anne C. Perry and Jared Shurin
Jurassic London, a not-for-profit- press in the United Kingdom, has made something of a habit out of combining short fiction anthologies with museum exhibits. The Lowest Heaven is one such, coinciding with Visions of the Universe, a major exhibition of space imagery at the Royal Observatory Greenwich. All of the stories in the book are themed around celestial bodies in our Solar System, from the Sun to Halley’s Comet, and illustrated with photographs and artwork from the Royal Observatory. It is, for lack of a more expressive term, a gorgeous book.
The anthology begins with “Golden Apple”, a story by Sophia McDougall about a sick young girl who undergoes a treatment that imbues her with light. Like Blake Charlton’s story, “Heaven in a Wild Flower”, in Unfettered, there’s nothing more poignant than watching parents struggling with an ill child. McDougall grabs hold of that idea with both hands. The child suffers. Her parents and doctors and the reader orbit around her. There’s symbolism there from a story written to represent the sun, around which our Solar System revolves. The stories in this anthology do likewise.
What follows are stories from Alastair Reynolds, Maria Dahvana Headley, Adam Roberts, E.J. Swift, Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Mark Charan Newton, Lavie Tidhar, Kameron Hurley, and a host of others. Some stand out, others less so, but they all represent a portraiture of the intersection between astronomy and story telling. Wait. . . what does that mean? I have no idea, but it sounds kind of smart so I’m going to leave it in.
The anthology shines best though with S.L. Grey’s “We’ll Always Be Here”, which describes two young women sent on a ship to die far from home. Grey combines elements of science fiction, dystopia, and pop culture to create a haunting portrayal of a family, both born into and adopted. I would be willing to buy the entire book for this one story alone. The events leading up to it would certainly make a twisted young adult novel.
All told The Lowest Heaven is the best assembled anthology to date from Jurassic London and unquestionably one of the most unique anthologies I’ve ever read. I would recommend every reader of this review pick up a copy.