cover image Steel Tree

Steel Tree

Sarena Ulibarri. Android, $19.99 trade paper (116p) ISBN 978-1-958121-64-1

Ulibarri (Another Life) puts a sci-fi spin on The Nutcracker ballet in this optimistic take on first contact with aliens. After Klara’s parents immigrate to the colony planet of Petipa, Klara is left behind to run her family’s nut orchards on the moon Eta. It’s a tense time: folks have been disappearing, and the nuts that make up most of the local food supply have been sabotaged by someone or something. In the midst of this unrest, Klara throws a Christmas-themed party—only for it to be crashed by giant rats and mysterious winged beings. Teaming up with a suddenly and inexplicably sentient “nutcracker” android and its curious inventor Drosselmeyer, Klara investigates, uncovering the unhappy history of her moon and the genocide of its original inhabitants. Ulibarri engages deeply with Tchaikovsky’s classic, studding the narrative with an imposing space-bound Christmas tree, dancing fairies, romance between Klara and her printed-circuit android prince, and a hissable villain. The prose skews slightly toward younger readers and will especially appeal to ballet fans, who will delight over the Easter eggs liberally strewn throughout. This is just in time for Christmas.[em] (Dec.) [/em]