Short Story Review: “The Star Tree” by Jon Lasser

5 of 5 stars.

Coming-of-Age can happen over years, over a season, or even over the course of one Bandaid-pulling moment. It defines who one is in the push-pull of familial bonds and where one’s place is within the vaster universe. And these extremes are exactly what’s delivered here during a train trek across a largely barren desert on a sparsely populated, thinly atmosphered planet that sits coldly among thousands of worlds and stars flung across the cosmos. Adolescent Marq accompanies his much younger brother Chiq and his single-by-circumstance father. The family dynamic changes as the boys get older, and the nomadic, privileged position of a diplomat’s family proves isolating.

The atmosphere here was so thin that the stars didn’t twinkle like they did under containment domes. Tens of millions of stars shone dispassionately upon us. My father mourned for a woman on a world so far away that he couldn’t have pointed to it in the southern hemisphere, her star a grain of sand in the sky’s infinite fractal lode.

The mother’s work relocation to a distant world has shrunk the already tiny family unit that barely relates to nor interacts with the mining class that populates their desert world. Marq’s obsession with the larger stoic, crude culture clashes with Chiq’s romanticized memorization of the constellations and their meanings, and his collection of world cards that chronicles the real life disasters and apocalyptic moments of hundreds of distant previously populated planets and moons. He memorizes those worlds, giving them a final chance at a legacy.

Marq struggles in finding meaning and stories within the stars . . .

This beautiful, contest-winning tale appears in Writers of the Future 32 edited by David Farland. It’s illustrated by contest-winning artist, Killian McKeown. I received this new anthology from Netgalley.

[Check out my other reviews here.]


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