REVIEW: “Love and Dearth and the Star that Shall Not Be Named: Kom’s Story” by James Gunn

Review of James Gunn, “Love and Dearth and the Star that Shall Not Be Named: Kom’s Story”, Asimov’s Science Fiction November/December (2017): 118-125 — Purchase Here. Reviewed by Kiera Lesley.

This story is part of a series of tie-in pieces for James Gunn’s Transcendental trilogy of novels. Each tells the backstory of one character in the novels and how they came to seek the Transcendental Machine central to the novels.

A nice angle on a first contact story. Kom, a Sirian, encounters a human named Sam floating in an escape capsule near the star that his people hold to be the place where paradise for the dead is located. In learning to communicate with Sam, Kom describes the history, creation myths, culture and procreating practices of his planet and species. These conversations with Sam prompt Kom to think differently about these things and reconsider his life trajectory.

I really liked the mythology of this piece. Kom’s tales of the star that shall not be named and the beliefs attached to it by his people – the Ranians – are beautiful. I also enjoyed Kom and Sam’s conversations and the internal revelations this invoked in Kom. The shifts between recollections, current events, and creation myths are handled well, too.

However, as someone not familiar with the Transcendental novels I found the turn the story takes at the end to tie-in to the novel universe a bit abrupt. Where Kom was being sent to, why this was important, and Kom’s motivations for his quest for transcendence and the Transcendental Machine happened fast – within paragraphs – and weren’t clear to me. This left me unsatisfied with the ending. I suspect this is unlikely to be the case for a reader familiar with Gunn’s novels, but it did detract from this piece’s ability to stand on its own for me.