I have two Truck Stop stories to review today: “The Smugglers” by Vanessa MacLaren-Wray and “Better Angels” by Steven D. Brewer. (Vanessa and Steven were on the “Technical Fiction” Panel Discussion with me.) The Smugglers was released in July, and Better Angels came out just last week. Both of these stories deliver characters and settings you want to know more about. Read on for my reviews!
“The Smugglers” by Vanessa MacLaren-Wray
Attachment is everything.
Mother says, “Don’t name the merchandise,” and “Don’t let the humans see you.”
But Boy can’t resist naming the cute, fuzzy ball of feathers and knife-sharp talons they’re delivering. And why be afraid of weak, ignorant humans?
Plus, this old skinsuit works, but it’s getting cramped. Maybe it’s time for a change.
“The Smugglers” is a novella-length coming-of-age story that is layered and complex. There’s a lot going on here, having to do with what’s hidden and what’s not. The relationship between mother, Deralka, and child, Boy, is woven through the story, along with the fate of the adorable creature that’s being smuggled. On a more subtle level, there’s the need to squeeze into a skinsuit to blend in at the Truck Stop, as well as Boy’s leap into puberty that results in unexpected changes.
When Deralka and Boy, the smugglers referred to in the story’s title, arrive at the Truck Stop at the Center of the Galaxy to meet the buyer of their goods, the deal immediately goes sideways. Then Mother and Boy get separated and Boy goes on a round-about adventure that leads to the Truck Stop’s mysterious Orange Quadrant. The story is well-paced and engaging, with characters I hope to find in future stories. This is a great addition to the Truck Stop series, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
“Better Angels” by Steven D. Brewer
After trailing a notorious trafficker across the galaxy, a self-appointed guardian angel arrives at the Truck Stop.
Hidden within the trafficker’s cargo hold may be just what he needs to shut down the trafficker’s illicit trade for good.
“Better Angels” is a kick, no pun intended. It’s short, immediate and forceful. It catches you right from the beginning with an attention-grabbing surprise that may put some readers off, but I suggest that you read on. “Better Angels” will surprise you again and again, and it’s impressive how the author is able to accomplish this in a short 20 pages. It’s great science-fiction, and is another strong addition to the Truck Stop series.
So that’s it for today! Catch up with you again in a few weeks.