A few months ago, I had the pleasure to meet author Eric Johnson at Space City Con in Houston, Texas and shortly thereafter I reviewed his work Roe: A Life in Afterworld. Now I once again have the pleasure to read and review one of Mr. Johnson’s novels from his Life in Afterworld Series: Aster.
Here is a quick rehash of Afterworld for those who have not yet read this series or my earlier review of Roe. Afterworld exists on our planet during a time “after” what is known as “the Red Sun Millennium.”
Mercury, knocked out of its orbit by an extrasolar planetoid, falls into the sun. Two years later, the small planet falls into the sun completely, causing a solar event that fries all of earth’s electric-based technology. Communication devices, computers, vehicles, air conditioners, lights, anything operated with electricity died, and the world slipped into chaos. The world had some massive radiation problems, and 95% of humanity died out, leaving only the heartiest people and those who lived outside technology-dependent societies to survive. The sun turned red as it tried to adapt to the changes after swallowing Mercury. After a thousand years, the sun and Earth returned to “normal,” but technology is still heartily mistrusted and life has changed, adapted.
Here is a trailer for the series:
Now about Aster.
Aster is the tale of a young woman found on a life raft by a young man. She has no memories of her past, but has an extraordinary fount of medical knowledge and information, well beyond what her apparent fifteen years of age should have. She is taken in by the Church orphanage where the young man lives, and begins working with the Nuns healing the sick of the local community, training them to become better nurses and doctors, all the while ignorant of her past. She takes the name “Aster Marigold” after a flower that grew in the gardens around the orphanage. She grows up, falls in love, becomes a nun, all the while ignorant of her true past, only to discover something terrible.
She is the clone of a woman known as “Mother,” who has no real children, but several clone “Daughters” who she uses to artificially extend her life by uploading her memories into a new Daughter when her body fails. Daughter clones who fail “quality control” tests are eliminated (killed) and Aster was a failed clone.
Throughout the course of the story, her decisions pit her against both the Church that raised her and the Mother that created her.
And in the end, Astor does something Mother could never do. Read and Find Out.
The story of Aster is fascinating. She begins life, or her life in the story, a virtual blank slate. She knows nothing of who she is, where she came from, or even her identity, and develops her own identity as she matures in the Church, and becomes a Nun to help teach people. She doesn’t allow her Mother, the Church, or even her lover to define her personality or her life. She takes an identity, accepts it, and grows up to become an independent person.
It’s really a great story of how a young woman with no past develops into a strong, mature, fierce woman.
The story combines a number of elements: love, coming of age, disaster, intrigue, mysterious pasts, and a seemingly too-powerful antagonist.
As with Roe, there are hints of the racism between the new Afterworld races and a post-apocalyptic feel. But Aster shows how the world is changing, moving past the Red Sun Millennium and developing new life, growing and changing. There is a message of hope within the darkness surrounding Aster, and for that I give it one of my highest praises.
On my scale of 1-10, where one is “Why did I read this Garbage?” and 10 is “I wanna live here!” I’m giving this one a 10.
Not that I want to live in the post-apocalypse, but I wanna hang out with Aster and her friends. They seem like cool people.
If you want to check out Aster for yourself, you can find links of where to purchase them on the Life in Afterworld website. The paperback is available for $9.99 and the ebook is only $2.99. The story is only 200ish pages and is a very fast read. Eric Johnson also has a number of free short stories available for those interested in exploring Afterworld here.
Legal note: I received a free copy of Aster for review purpose. The free-ness of the book did not influence my review in any way.