Disclaimer: This review is of a novella that is part of the Starstruck Holidays anthology; due to time constraints, I am only able to review one installment of the anthology at this time. The author and I attended the same graduate program and have assisted each other with promotional work in the past. She provided me with this anthology in ebook form in exchange for an honest review.

“No One on Earth” by Jennifer Loring sucked me in with an immediate tragic hook that made me want to root for the main character, Jon Kline, no matter what else was to come.

However, what truly immersed me into the story were the elements of diversity not commonly seen in speculative fiction, much less a story that bends so many genres. This includes not only the main character’s ethnicity, but that his personal history includes athleticism while his interests are more nerdy and academic. I also loved the intersection between indigenous mythology and modern astronomical knowledge and how it creates internal conflict for the main character. However, the tragic realism of Jon’s family dynamic is applicable across all cultures, as is his heartbreak.

The “ghost story” element of this piece is very slow burn; at first glance, it could all be the result of Jon’s heartbroken and alcohol-addled mind. Even though I knew the theme of this anthology, the sudden switch from maybe-urban-fantasy to interdimensional SF was incredibly jarring. There was some foreshadowing, such as the meteor that might have been the visiting shuttle, but not quite enough to prepare me for the new characters’ appearance.

As a science-fiction story, Loring does an excellent job of fleshing out alien physiology and technology in the short space she had available to her. As a love story, I’m irrationally glad that the alien visitor does not embody Jon’s perfect desires. The small detail of Erukkass’ unsettling teeth ratchets up both the “realism” (as much as that’s possible in SF) and surrealism of the situation. As a holiday story, the proposed future that the main characters’ share is intriguing enough for a follow-up tale.

I would also love to read this story entirely from Erukkass’ perspective, with more insight into his history, and many of the scenes for his point of view. Not because I think it would make a better story, but because the counterpoint would be fascinating.

Rating: 4 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

Currently reading: Home Birth (Kaiju Revisited #2) by Jessica McHugh

Currently writing: 72,640/90k words

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