Review of Emily C. Skaftun, “Only the Messenger”, Beneath Ceaseless Skies Issue 299 (March 12, 2020): Read online. Reviewed by Richard Lohmeyer.
World weary, perhaps even universe weary, is one way to describe Astrill, the first-person narrator of Skaftun’s excellent story. More specifically, Astrill is chief engineer on a starship carrying illegal cargo. They have been reincarnated so many times, in so many forms—mammalian, reptilian, avian, etc.–and in so many different corners of the universe, that they have begun to feel life is pointless and love forever disappointing. Then they hear a knock on the porthole outside their cabin. It’s Ennesta, a cute, furry-looking, seemingly cat-like creature whose true nature is one of the story’s major plot points and the source of a profound moral dilemma for Astrill.
My one problem with this story is its slow start. Had I been reading solely for pleasure, as opposed to the somewhat different responsibilities of a reviewer, I might have put it down without finishing. I’m glad I didn’t, since within two or three epub pages, Skaftun’s story becomes much more interesting.