Author: Mike McCoy
First Published by Blaster Tech in 2021
Review by Miriam Atkinson
Author Mike McCoy’s short story Obsidian: Tales of Karanga combines science fiction and human psychology with threads of an environmental message woven into the narrative.
The story’s main narrator is Mas Gwinyai, a member of the alien race known as Karanga. He, along with his crewmates Banga and Raviro, have been stuck onboard their vessel for countless years awaiting rescue until they are finally uncovered by a group of humans.
The story begins with an interesting alternative to Earth’s history – instead of evolving naturally the Earth has been shaped by Karanga who tend to the planet like gardeners. Everything goes well until humanity arrives. Obsidian emphasises the unfortunate truth that humans are responsible for much of the damage done to our planet. I did not expect to find an environmental message when I began Obsidian but I nevertheless enjoyed and appreciated its inclusion, particularly as such topics do not often appear in science fiction.
As stated, Obsidian does delve into aspects of human psychology. In this case – what happens when humans encounter aliens unexpectedly – or rather, what happens when humans encounter something they do not fully understand?
I was intrigued by the route McCoy chose to go down. Both sides (Human and Karanga) perceive each other as strange and dangerous entities and choose to fight rather than communicate. The majority of the plot moves along at a slow yet peaceful pace so, when the encounter does happen, the sudden introduction of these violent scenes is deliberately shocking.
The reader is given a vantage point and is able to look down on the events and observe what the characters cannot. Based on the reactions of the two races and their inability to go against their natural instincts, the humans and Karanga actually have a lot in common. By the end of the story it was difficult to say which side was truly better than the other.
If I had one criticism it would be that the descriptions of Mas and his fellow Karanga needed more detail. Through the eyes of the human characters we learn that Karanga are ‘ant-like’ but we don’t get much more insight than this. As a reader I would have appreciated the extra detail in order to better visualise this new alien race.
I found Obsidian: Tales of Karanga to be a surprisingly thought-provoking story as it makes the reader think about what they would do if they were in the same position, faced with the unknown. The short story is a quick read and a good choice for anyone who wants to dip into the world of science fiction.
Obsidian: Tales of Karanga was published in Reedsy Discovery in June 2021. This review is also available on Discovery’s website. You can check it out here.