Review: Starlings by Jo Walton


This was a NetGalley request that looked interesting. I quite liked Jo Walton’s Among Others, and short fiction is a lovely ‘in between’ bigger novels for me. I like to sit and read a short story or two in between bigger novels as a bit of a palette cleanser, if you will, so this one was a no-brainer!

I’d like to thank the author, and Tachyon Publications via NetGalley for the review copy of this book!

A strange Eritrean coin travels from lovers to thieves, gathering stories before meeting its match. Google becomes sentient and proceeds toward an existential crisis. An idealistic dancer on a generation ship makes an impassioned plea for creativity and survival. Three Irish siblings embark on an unlikely quest, stealing enchanted items via bad poetry, trickery, and an assist from the Queen of Cats. 

With these captivating initial glimpses into her storytelling psyche, Jo Walton shines through subtle myths and wholly reinvented realities. Through eclectic stories, subtle vignettes, inspired poetry, and more, Walton soars with humans, machines, and magic—rising from the everyday into the universe itself.

“Mirror, Mirror, on the wall- who is fairest of them all?” I had been taught to show truth, and did not know how to do anything else. Yet such a question is bound to be subjective.

This set of stories was very diverse. Some are fantasy-ish, and some are a little more sci-fi. There’s poetry too, which I don’t normally go in for, but liked nonetheless.

There’s even a letter in the style of Jane Austen writing to her older sister Cassandra, only in this case, the mail gets rerouted accidentally and sent to Cassandra, the daughter of Priam of Troy in the Iliad, and she writes back. Really fascinating idea there.

There was a pretty cool experimental story, which is a little like the beginning of Snow White as told from the POV of the mirror, which I thought was great. There’s a play based on the Irish myth of the Sons of Tuireann, there’s a story about a zero gravity ballet dancer, there’s a really interesting sort of Noir detective story that takes place in a world where we’ve cloned Jesus, and now being Jesus is like an ethnicity in itself. Jesus as a private eye was really unique.

My favorite story overall though was The Panda Coin, which was a really interesting sci-fi story that takes place on a space station. The station is divided into twelve sections, each named after a month of the year, with weather to match. It’s a really interesting world, and we see bits of it as this coin changes hands. As it does, the POV changes with it, so we meet the people of the station, whether they be simple human miners, androids or AIs. I liked the idea quite a lot!

I liked that each of these stories have an afterword, sort of explaining where they came from or where they were published. A lot of author’s collections have forewords before stories, and I find that having the explanation after the story made more sense.

Pandas gotta pand.

All told, I really liked this collection. It’s one of the most diverse group of stories and poems in different styles and forms that I’ve ever read. Really fun!


Thanks again to Tachyon Publications via NetGalley for the review copy of this book!

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