Yetsade is the sole survivor of a spaceship that crashed on an alien planet where the predominant species is a group of bird-like creatures that roam the high skies. Yetsade grows up fully ingrained into the natives’ culture, even though she’s painfully aware that her anatomical differences — the lack of wings — will never allow her to fly. Eventually, another human spaceship arrives on the planet and takes Yetsade back to humanity. With the eager help of her teacher, Rhonda, Yetsade is able to adapt quickly to a human life, though she struggles to consider herself as part of the species. Her heart will always be with her former family.
From a science fictional perspective, “Expecting to Fly” has a rather implausible premise. It is essentially a “Mowgli in space” kind of a story, except that its futuristic trappings somehow make it less palatable than Kipling’s classic. It’s simply inconceivable that a child would survive in such an alien environment, or that it would be allowed to return after such a short acclimation period. This makes it especially disappointing since it is an otherwise fine story. Through the perspective of a well-realized protagonist, the authors give an exquisite description of the planets native life and their harsh customs. It was bold and original. Even Yetsade’s solution at the end was clever despite the overall implausibility of the situation.