SFINCS Review: The Stars Within by Alex Arch

Today’s review is about THE STARS WITHIN by Alex Arch. It’s a standalone novella with two points of views. Both serve to explore the human element of expansion into space and the importance and dangers of living.

SFINCS logoThis review is brought to you by my participation in the Speculative Fiction Indie Novella Championship (SFINCS). SFINCS, pronounced “sphinx”, is a yearly competition to recognize, honor, and celebrate the talent and creativity present in the indie community. It’s a sister competition to both SPFBO and SPSFC, and it highlights greatness in the novella format in all areas of speculative fiction (fantasy, science fiction, horror, etc.). I am part of Team Behind the Musings. You can find out more about us here.

Author: Alex Arch
Series: None
Age Category: Adult
Publisher: Champagne Book Group
Publish Date: July 18, 2022
Print Length: 177
Purchase: Amazon

Official Synopsis

Life finds a way, they say. Well, maybe life went too far. A dying star always shines brightest.

Thomas fights to beat cancer. Colette fights to save the human race.

A colonial miner crippled with debt, Thomas must flee his home to cure his recurring cancer. With his health declining at an alarming rate, his options are limited. Spend his last days surrounded by his loved ones or leave them behind for a slim chance to live. The choice is impossible, the prospect grim, and not for him alone.

A pragmatic military hero, Colette enrolls in a mission to thwart an alien invasion. She always gets the job done… unless Mia’s involved. She must then put her feelings aside as always or risk jeopardizing her assignment for the woman she once loved.

Two battles. Two realities. For one to succeed, the other must fail.

My Review

THE STARS WITHIN is a standalone novella that questions what it means to be alive. There are two points of view: Thomas, who has cancer, and Colette, who accepts a mission to destroy an alien race. Beholden to the greed of a mining company, Thomas’s recurrent cancer leaves him feeling hopeless and angry. He finds himself reprioritizing what’s important to him and makes a desperate dash to find a cure. Colette comes out of retirement to join a top secret mission to find an alien home world and destroy it before they wipe out the human race.

It is easy to sympathize with Thomas, who thought he could provide for his family by joining a mining company. But instead of getting rich quickly, he ends up in debt to a company that cares little for its employees. His story is set against Colette’s and, I believe, is meant to juxtapose what the average person might be dealing with against a wider view of what the human race is against. However, I felt these vastly different perspectives needed more development to better explore the importance of living one’s life fully vs. saving a species no matter the cost.

I liked Thomas’s storyline and found it relatable. He just wants to provide for his family and live a simple life, but company greed reigns supreme. Additionally, company greed, driven by human greed, results in the destruction of the land. So this novella also briefly introduces the topic of land use and its negative impact on the native flora and fauna.

I wasn’t quite sure I fully understood Colette’s POV, though. It seemed like a rather quick storyline to showcase that perhaps humans don’t deserve to live because all they do is destroy. I also felt the background romance distracted some from her POV. Additionally, I personally didn’t understand the ending, which tangentially ties both POVs together based on the actions of one of them.

Overall, though, THE STARS WITHIN is an easy-to-read, light science fiction that focuses on the human element of expansion into space. It causes one to wonder whether humans should explore new worlds even if they could.

Rating: withheld
Content warnings: cancer, violence
Reading format: Kindle e-book

3 thoughts on “SFINCS Review: The Stars Within by Alex Arch

  1. This seems like a more thoughtful read than one with lots of action, although maybe too short for everything that’s going on. But still, it sounds pretty good!

Leave a Reply