Publisher: Book Smugglers Publishing
Publish Date: Out Now
How we got this book: eARC from the publisher
Reviewers: Marlene and Lou
Entry number 3333. Vanguard Station Reckoning. All systems stable. Nothing new to report.
It’s been nine years since the war started; nine years since she has received acknowledgement or contact from anyone. Marooned alone on proto-colony planet Hestia, aging xeno-geologist Jyothi Agarwal still continues her routine transmissions in the hopes that someone, somewhere, is listening.
Then one day, out of nowhere, a brilliant light illuminates Hestia and something falls from the sky.
In the west, he wakes up in pain and alone. There is light everywhere. A new sense of weight. A broken body. Words. Knowing. And he realizes that against all odds, he is inexplicably alive. On a planet far removed from everything, the last human and a fallen star find companionship in each other–and perhaps something more. Something beautiful, shining, lasting. Something luminous.
*Blurb taken from Goodreads*
Marlene: Luminous is a lovely and lyrical story. It’s a very short piece, and feels like both a cry out of loneliness and a paean to the power of love. The science fiction-type setting is both beautiful and very, very spare – because it’s that spareness and sparseness that sets up the story.
Lou: I’m a major fusspot when it comes to the sci-fi romance genre. It either has to grab my attention instantly from the beginning and not let go, or it has to be of pure crack. Luminous is the first–a beautiful story that had a dreamy essence and quality. Like Marlene says above, there is a sparseness to the story because the heroine, Jyothi, has been so very alone for such a long period on another alien planet.
Marlene: The story is very simple, and not, both at the same time. Jyothi’s loneliness and isolation are starkly described. We can both see and feel her descent in depression and eventual death. People need other people, and Jyothi has no one. She was part of a scientific exhibition that was intended to analyze a proto-colony planet which Jyothi, in her isolation, eventually names for Hestia, the Greek goddess of hearth and home. Hestia was also a virgin goddess, which is more appropriate than it should have been. While Jyothi had a partner back home, she left him behind in order to be part of this mission.
Lou: It was so bitter and tragic knowing that Jyothi’s love back home would never see her return. And yet it was a choice Jyothi made to help save her planet, though stranded forever alone on a planet probably nevered factored into the worst case scenarios. While on Hestia, Jyothi had her own rituals each day which seemed to have grounded and centered her. She carried on with her mission and I suspect it was also routine of habit that got her through the lonely hours, days, and years. There was a gentleness about Jyothi that ran parallel to the tone of the story.
Marlene: When war came to her home planet, all of the other scientists left Jyothi behind. They were all young enough to serve in the armed forces, and Jyothi, in her 50s, was considered past it. The war seems to have consumed everything. It’s not just that no one has come back for Jyothi, but no one is answering her mission reports. Nor have they for 9 years. She may be the last of her people. She is certainly fated to die on Hestia, alone as she has lived. Then she answers an extremely mysterious dream request to go west and follow the path of a shooting star. She rescues a young male human or humanoid from the crash, and Jyothi is no longer alone. The crash survivor names himself West. He claims to be the being at the heart of a star, and the crash was supposed to be his death. Instead, Jyothi and her medical bay instruments save his life. And West saves hers, simply by taking away her loneliness and inserting himself into her formerly empty life.
Lou: I kept wondering what had happened to the crew? Why hadn’t Jyothi heard from anyone in nine years? Though this story was short, it packed in a lot of threads that purposefully left me wondering what happened to the rest of her people and I was and am totally fine with never knowing the answer. West was a lovely character with some equally lovely worldbuilding that doesn’t dig deep but was more than enough to make it believable. The first chapter sets the tone for the entire story and I ended up adoring him. He was otherwordly but also a bit like Bambi when he falls and transforms into a human.
Marlene: There are lots of mysteries about West. While he says he is a fallen star, and he clearly must be something more than human to have survived that crash, we don’t learn much about him or his people. In a book this short, the hints we have a probably enough. West is sweet, and helpful, and sometimes a bit naive while still containing a fund of knowledge that he learned while he was a star. It’s just that being with Jyothi is the first time he’s been able to put any of his knowledge into practice. He stumbles a bit and Jyothi finds it adorable.
Lou: The hints of West’s origins were definitely enough and I didn’t find myself wanting to learn more, or how he came to be. West was a fallen star–and the author makes references to the huge balls of gas in the sky–and not the type of fallen star such as Calcifer (though Calcifer is amazing from Howl’s Moving Castle). West fell for Jyothi, which is extremely romantic and this is where my critique of the story comes in. I didn’t quite believe that Jyothi suddenly had these deep love for him and this comes down to the story’s short length. I definitely believe that West and Jyothi are going to have a wonderful and happy life together but I would have loved to have seen some of their romance play out rather than small transitions.
Marlene: We see them fall in love. As the only two beings alone in their universe, of course they do. In that kind of setting, their two options would be love or war. In this story, they choose love and start making a life together. The building of that life makes the story sweet, and we see just a glimpse into their no-longer-lonely future.
In the climax of the story, we find Jyothi holding back for reasons that seem superficial, particularly under the circumstances. While West was able to provide a solution that worked for the story, this was also the one thing about the story that rubbed me a bit the wrong way. If she truly loved the real “West”, and she did, then their relative appearances shouldn’t have mattered quite so much. This is my personal 2 cents and I think that it won’t bother other readers the same way.
Lou: I can see why Jyothi would have her reservations since West is such a new person in her life in circumstances that are so out of the norm (stranded on an alien planet would tick that box :D). Maybe if the story had been a little longer, she would have gotten over those reservations as we got to see her and West fall in love in real time so speak. I mean, West had been a star who might have been thousands, or even millions of years old. Much, much older than Jyothi so his transformation was a little superficial but maybe some time would have eased Jyothi’s worries considering she had been so alone on the planet. I also think Jyothi had a fear of rejection, especially since she was fully aware she was the oldest member of the crew, and snstead of having that crew member stay with her, Jyothi was left alone.
Marlene: In summary, Luminous is a sweet romance of a science fiction romance story that uses its science fiction setting in a way that is crucial to the plot but doesn’t get in the way of the romance or the characters.
I give Luminous a B+
Lou: The ending is a small critique for me but overall Luminous is a romantic short story that I’ll remember for all the right and lovely reasons. Not only does it have some awesome sci-fi worldbuilding, it also manages to give off the feel of a fairytale in space which is all sorts of wonderful. If you’re looking for a quick sweet romance in space then this is a short story I’d recommend.
I also give Luminous a B+ (I debated very hard between the B+ and an A)
Thanks to the Book Smugglers, watch out for our giveaway post later today where three digital copies of Luminous are up for grabs.
Update: Luminous can also be read for free here.