cover image So Quick Bright Things Come to Confusion

So Quick Bright Things Come to Confusion

Caren Gussoff Sumption. Vernacular, $15.99 trade paper (116p) ISBN 978-1-952283-

Sumption (The Birthday Problem) delivers an uncomfortable speculative love story set in the far future. Human exogeologist James Blackthorne cohabitates with Aveliin, a native Zil, on her home planet as he studies the conditions of her world. To enable Aveliin to assist him, James must inject her with a chemical that keeps her body from returning to the natural hibernation the rest of her species undergoes during the summer months. Along the way, the pair form a bond that turns caring and eventually romantic as they share more about themselves and their respective cultures. The story’s strengths lie in the slow unfurling of information about the planet, the Zil language, and the situation James and Aveliin find themselves in, though pop cultural references that feel dated even now somewhat mar the futuristic worldbuilding. The romance itself is off-putting: everything the readers know about Aveliin filters through James’s first-person narration, which frequently compares her to an animal or a child and makes misogynistic remarks about the human gender he has assigned to her. This disturbing sexual relationship detracts and distracts from the mystery of James’s mission and the planet’s alien quirks. The extraterrestrial setting will draw readers in, but many will be turned off as the romance gets underway. (Sept.)