GigaNotoSaurus. And okay, not just violence, but rather by forming a chosen family of people willing to risk their lives to stop a deadly exploitation and protect those who voices will the space between stars with song. The story is beautiful and moving, tense and action-packed, with a touch of tragedy but a build toward something transforming and wonderful. And before I give too much away, let’s get to the review!
“Songs of the Leviathans” by Jharice S. Blake (6855 words)
No Spoilers: Leviathans aren’t exactly space whales, but they also kinda look darn close, and Melody is part of a group of mostly women, human and alien, who are protecting one of the last Leviathans as she makes a trip to...somewhere in order to give birth. Melody is a survivor of being kidnapped in a forced breeding program that she and the people she worked with have escape from. Not everyone did. And not everyone did whole. Now they try and keep the leviathans safe from poachers who would use their bodies, their blood, everything about them to further the dying but still very lucrative black market on them. It’s a dangerous job, and all unfolding in a galaxy with the lingering traces of Founders, mysterious and absent beings who are known only by the inexplicable tech they leave behind. It’s a piece tempered by tragedy that manages to still have some fun, full of action and an indomitable will to protect what can be protected, to not give up in the face of exploitation and extinction.
Keywords: Space Whales, Poachers, Endangered Species, CW- Kidnapping/Rape (implied), Space
Review: I love the way this story takes this band of survivors and finds them trying to protect a different kind of survivor. perhaps seeing in the exploitation of the Leviathans a trace of their own trauma and loss. Trying to save the creatures from the brutality of the butchers who would kill them for parts. And of course around that the story also does a wonderful job of world building, imagining this galaxy with so much unexplained, so much mysterious. The Founders, and their floating tech. The Leviathans themselves, so conveniently exploitable. And humanity, the uncontrolled growth, the corruption that spreads with that, the kidnappings, the lack of any kind of restraint surrounding protecting the beings who are making easy space travel possible. It’s to this backdrop that Melody has lost her song but found a chosen family full of people who she would die for...or would die for her.
The action of the story is intense and well handled. There are some real stakes here as Melody has to face losing those she loves, of dealing with her own guilt about having been saved from essentially sex slavery. It’s not that this is her penance to me, more that this is the kind of person she wants to be, the person who saves others kinda like she was saved. Who lives up to the sacrifices made for her freedom. And I like that the story finds these people able to avert tragedy, able to unlock this huge mystery at the same time, and in so doing basically change their galaxy for the better. By making it not only morally right to save the leviathans, but economically imperative as well. It’s an imperfect solution perhaps but also it works, and it’s hard to argue with a solution that actually protects the leviathans and makes it so that Melody and the others have the support and resources they need to stay ahead of the butchers and keep their family safe. A fantastic read!