ARC Review: Behind the Sun, Above the Moon Anthology

I did receive a free copy in exchange for a review via Netgalley and NineStar Press, all opinions are my own

I think reading two anthologies to review back to back didn’t do this book justice, but I still enjoyed the read and loved the opportunity to read own voices works from a variety of people within the LGBTAIQ+ community. I appreciated the thorough content warnings at the beginning of each short story, rather than on the anthology as a whole, so that readers can make an informed decision if they wish to skip any of the stories because of potentially triggering themes or scenarios. That makes the anthology seem far more explicit than it is—Behind the Sun, Above the Moon simply presents non-binary people as complete individuals, so some of the stories involve sexual content, violence and other realities of human existence.

btsatm

This cover is fine, a little unexciting but I’m glad the authors included in the anthology got featured prominently, a lot of anthologies only feature well known names on the cover

A Queer anthology inspired by magic and the cosmos, a vast and beautiful place where planets, stars, comets—entire galaxies, even—live without borders, specifications or binaries. Stories span science fiction, science fantasy, contemporary, fabulism and magical realism, and celebrate Non-binary and Transgender characters. 

There are nine short stories in this anthology, and the character building among them is almost entirely fantastic. The genre and tone of the stories is also varied—Ink and Stars is a sci-fi adventure meets family drama, Lost/Found is a romantic and poetic coming of age story, and Horologium is a brief history of non-binary pronouns and expression, which looks hopefully to a more accepting future. Because of the incredible breath of styles represented in the authors of this anthology, I have included individual ‘if you liked x’ style recommendations at the end of each mini review. Enjoy!

twice-spent comet by Ziggy Schutz is a fantastic start to the anthology. The story is beautiful, with an amazing amount of character development and world-building given the constraints of the short story format. It also provides one of my favourite lines of the anthology:

“Being part of something bigger didn’t mean more fear. It meant finally finding something that made the fear feel earned.”

The found family trope is one of my absolute favourites, and it’s done spectacularly in twice-spent comet.
For fans of: Seanan McGuire’s InCryptid or October Daye novels, or Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

From Dusk to Dying Sun by Paige S Allen is an odd mix of magical realism and incredibly realised scenes. The pacing is fantastic, and the choice of second person seems made for a non-binary narrator.
Similar to: CE Murphy’s Walker Paper series

Brooklyn Ray’s Lost/Found is straight up poetry, and I loved the small, grounding touches that made Hollis come to life. A second read brings to light the exquisite layers of meaning put into this story, and if it sounds like I’m gushing—I am.
Reminiscent of: Erin Morgenstern’s Night Circus or Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle

Awry with Dandelions by JS Fields brings a lighter note to the anthology, reminiscent of Frank Tuttle’s Paths of Shadow series. This is also the first (but not last) story in the anthology to use ‘new’ pronouns—xie, xir etc. The touches of alien world-building in a futuristic alien settlement were a fun touch in an anthology dealing with some heavy subject matter, and it was a nice palate cleanser before moving on to the next story.
Comparable to: Frank Tuttle’s Paths of Shadow

SR Jones contributed The Far Touch, which provides some timely commentary on the ease with which we are now capable of destroying the earth—and the need to resist the urge to distance yourself from the people or institutions most likely to do so. I never knew an alien-astronaut-witch could be so relatable. The interactions between the three main characters smoothly raw the short story along, though I wish the ending had been more concrete.
Read if you enjoy: the work of Liz Williams

Ink and Stars by Alex Harrow was a fun, exciting read, filled with space hijinks, vaguely anti-government/corporation vibes, and interpersonal drama; so obviously I loved it. I’m also going to shout this book out for it’s representation of asexuality in non-sociopathic form, as well as casual polyamorous representation.
For fans of: Anne McCaffrey or Yoon Ha Lee’s Machineries of Empire trilogy

Horologium by Emmett Nahil is possibly the strangest story in the anthology, as the main plot is a hyper-realistic dream sequence about non-binary genders through the ages. Nonetheless, it was enjoyable, with enough action and character development on Coeie’s (the narrator’s) part to keep the story from seeming absurd.
Reminiscent at times of: RF Kuang’s Poppy War

Death Marked by Sara Codair was another great entry, and I would genuinely read a novel length work set in the world created around Enzi, their job, and their family. The clash of duty and personal standards with social and familial expectations was well written, and I thoroughly enjoyed this story.
Similar to: Warbreaker or the Wax and Wayne series by Brandon Sanderson

The final story in the anthology is Anna Zabo’s Weave the Dark, Weave the Light; and definitely one of my favourites in the collection (I feel like I’ve said that about fully half this book, but that doesn’t make it any less true!). The magic system more hinted at than explained in this story is beautiful, and the emotional undercurrents woven into the story are set off perfectly by Ari’s blunt, captivating way of viewing the world.
Read if you enjoyed: Hexarchate Stories by Yoon Ha Lee or Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series

If you’re a fan of any of the series I’ve listed, or just enjoy sci-fi or fantasy stories with more diversity in gender or sexuality than you might otherwise find, Behind the Sun, Above the Moon will likely appeal. The anthology releases on the 17th of February, 2020.

 

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