Title: From Stars They Fell
Author Name & Publisher: H.R. Harrison (Less Than Three Press)
Publication Date & Length: October 28, 2015 – 67 pgs
An alien ship crash lands on Earth, leaving its only occupant stranded. But in a fortunate twist, Earth is a hospitable planet for Veni, from the atmosphere and food to the friendly and intelligent inhabitants.
The first such inhabitants Veni meets call themselves dwarves. And though they don’t understand the technology that brought the alien to them, they insist on being hospitable. Sure, Veni doesn’t understand why the inhabitants of this land insist on speaking a language that modifies for gender, but ze is anything if not adaptable—especially after ze meets Wystan, a man who speaks only with his hands.
I was very interested in this story going into it, but I have to say a lot of it was lost on me. The first 60% of this story is world building, which is kind of irrelevant to the plot that finally and slowly starts up. For a story that’s only 20k words in length, I expect to finish in an hour or two at most. This story took me three weeks to read because I really saw no point in going back to it.
The plot is simple and easy, when it does finally show up. And frankly, there are a lot of scenarios it should have dealt with toward the end that it didn’t. For a caste that’s so hell-bent on their task, dispatching only one soldier and having no fear of being found again seems unlikely to me.
There is a romance that happens within these pages, though I found the romance unnecessary but intriguing. Intriguing only in that the practical aspect of how they have sex was interesting. As for the connection between the characters, I believe a deep friendship would have been simple enough in order to get the plot across. As for the actual sex scene, it was odd and hard to follow. I had issues understanding parts and almost wish it wasn’t there because it was more confusing than interesting or innovative.
I did like the aspect of a stranger for a foreign world coming to a new world and having to learn about everything. That was very well described, if irrelevant. The diversity in this piece is vast, which I greatly appreciated. And, if you throw in a Deaf character and sign into anything, I’m probably going to latch onto that and run with it.
Overall, not a fantastic read. I’m still not quite sure what to make of it and am thinking I really should have not necessarily continued with the reading.
The writing is excellent, and I loved the concept. Veni, the alien, is misunderstood by the local inhabitants and assumed to be an angel. Just as Veni cannot comprehend a society divided by gender, the dwarves (who themselves are what we might call gender non-conforming) cannot fathom a genderless society. Their interactions are interesting. Despite their confusion, Veni and the locals develop respect and friendship, and no one finds Veni too strange to deserve companionship. The lack of alien panic is refreshing.
There are many fun little surprises throughout the story which delighted and impressed me. This is an excellent exploration of what’s underneath the surface and at our core. Ordinarily I like to hope we’re at the point of writing characters of various genders without using metaphor, but this was so well-written and was about much more than “Look, a genderless character!” Mx. Harrison has certainly earned a new fan.