across a field of starlight

I am always happy to read science fiction. That’s especially true in today’s modern sci-fi landscape, where more queer, diverse stories are available from major publishers all the time. One of the titles that I’ve had on my radar for a while is Blue Delliquanti’s young adult graphic novel Across a Field of Starlight. Reading for the graphic novel panel for the Cybils Awards gave me the nudge I needed to pick it up, and I fell in love with its innovative plot, excellent characters, and themes. It was one of my favorite books of the year!


across a field of starlight by blue delliquanti book cover
When they were kids, Fassen's fighter spaceship crash-landed on a planet that Lu's survey force was exploring. It was a forbidden meeting between a kid from a war-focused resistance movement and a kid whose community and planet are dedicated to peace and secrecy.

Lu and Fassen are from different worlds and separate solar systems. But their friendship keeps them in each other's orbit as they grow up. They stay in contact in secret as their communities are increasingly threatened by the omnipresent, ever-expanding empire.

As the empire begins a new attack against Fassen's people--and discovers Lu's in the process--the two of them have the chance to reunite at last. They finally are able to be together...but at what cost?

This beautifully illustrated graphic novel is an epic science fiction romance between two non-binary characters as they find one another through time, distance, and war.

 

Across a Field of Starlight is a sci-fi epic. The Ever-Blossoming Empire and the Fireback resistance are at war, and almost everyone is caught in the cross-hairs – including young Fassen, a resistance orphan, and Lu, part of a neutral party survey team who find them stranded planet-side in the aftermath. These two, in a moment born of stress, find a way to stay in touch despite diverging paths, and the rest is a story of resistance, of broadening perspectives, of unimaginable technology, and of finding ways to do the right thing, even when it is hard.

 

Fassen has grown up in the resistance, and knows no other world but one of duties, working for your food allotment, and dreaming of destroying the Empire at all costs. Lu, on the other hand, has a best friend who is an AI, pilots their own small research vessel, and lives in a secretive community that doesn’t welcome combatants on either side of the galactic war. They maintain a friendship based on storytelling and delayed communication but cannot share most of their lives with each other. When Fassen is faced with choices that stretch their understanding of right and wrong, Lu and the Field community show them another way of being – but there are deeper and more dangerous elements at play than culture clash. The future of the resistance, and the future of humanity, may be at stake.

 

I really appreciated the way that this story was one that echoed themes in other popular sci-fi franchises (the Star Wars films, for one), while making its own, hopeful way. Fassen’s place in the Fireback resistance is one that depends on healthy soldiers, and each soldier only has as much value as they bring to the war effort. Lu’s world is completely different – a commune based on mutual aid, sharing, and personal choice beyond subsistence. Author-illustrator Delliquanti asks the reader, through their characters, to consider a kinder, less capitalistic, and more peaceful future for humanity, and resists falling into the storytelling pitfalls of white saviorism and all resistance = good. Across a Field of Starlight is amazingly complex for a young adult graphic novel, and while it won’t appeal to all readers, I loved it.

 

I also appreciated the fact that Lu is Black and fat, and there’s no discussion of that at all – it’s just the way they are, and Fassen (and other characters’) genderqueer/trans identities are only brought up in the context of being able to afford meds, or what accommodations they must make to appear in a way that matches their identity, or why they might idolize certain other characters. The narrative doesn’t ask them to suffer, or give up their ideals, or even to fall in love, to be who they want to be. I found that added a refreshing, optimistic, and satisfying note to go along with some heavier, more serious notes in the story.

 

Delliquanti’s art is a major highlight of the book – it’s colorful, imaginative, makes great use of lighting, and totally sells the sci-fi elements of the plot with small details and costuming. A note in the book shares that Delliquanti plots & thumbnails on paper, and then completes the rest of their process digitally. The result is a polished, warm, and interesting take on science and space. There is no cold distance in Delliquanti’s art – it is amazingly cozy, with a rainbow palette. It doesn’t dwell much on the emptiness of space, but instead on the human lives that people it, and how they intend to survive (and thrive) together.

 

In all, Across a Field of Starlight is not to be missed – it’s beautiful, hopeful, and set in a galaxy that will feel welcome and unique all at once.

 

Recommended for: all young adult graphic novel enthusiasts, fans of LGBTQ+ fiction, and anyone who likes their sci-fi with a heavy dose of hope and cozy vibes, à la Becky Chambers’ The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet.

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