Review: “Between Screens” by Zach Chapman

3 of 5 stars.

This existential tale is told by a teenaged boy that just wants to feel like he belongs when his life is upended after the death of his father in a space station radiation accident. Life on Earth was too expensive, so the narrator and his mother, who spends every waking moment crying by herself, move off-Earth to a space station where he finds himself the new kid in a school where no one has been to Earth.

He soon leaps at the chance to skip out on school at the prodding of ring-leader, Cox, following a gang of smoking, drinking teens on an illegal jaunt through multiple skipper stations [akin to StarGates] to ditch the police and have parties in the far reaches of the galaxy. However, it soon becomes clear that the location of these parties is not entirely random, but rather strategic. Through the use of hacked telescopes, the gang of hoodlums like to chase down apocalypses and watch cities, space stations, civilizations and whole planets get destroyed. These real-time movies are possible due to tracking the speed of light from the location of the apocalypse and staging a rendezvous. They especially like to watch the same apocalypse unfold repeatedly by catching it at increasing distances.

Time itself becomes a blur after all the galaxy skipping independent of the sun. It’s only a matter of time before school and his time on Earth are all becoming un-reality compared to his jaunts tracking disasters.

The concept and writing of this story is unique. More of this story and topic could have been explored to the tale’s benefit. The story is illustrated by 2014 Golden Brush winner Trevor Smith. As a quarterly short story contest finalist, “Between Screens” merited inclusion in the anthology Writers of the Future Volume 31 by L. Ron Hubbard. I received the anthology through Net Galley.
[Check out my other reviews here.]


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