I read a couple of books from Karin Lowachee in the past, and they focused – with lucid starkness – on difficult subjects like pirate raids, kidnapped and abused children and the harsh decisions one must make to survive, so when I started reading this short story, the core concept felt quite familiar.
Young Paris Azarcon, just five years old, is the only surviving member of his family after a raid on their home on Meridia station: grievously wounded, he is rescued by the crew of a commercial ship passing by and adopted into the family, but the ghosts of his past keep resurfacing – especially the memory of his older brother Cairo, the one Paris saw for the last time as he was urging his little brother to run, save himself. Life on the ship Chateaumargot becomes progressively difficult as Paris channels the formless rage, pain and survivor guilt into violent reactions that force the ship’s captain to… trade him to another vessel, the operation allowed by the records’ flexibility in this area of space.
On the Dragon Empress, under the tutelage of Madame Leung, Paris learns how to become a drug smuggler and builds around himself the hard, though persona of the guy he needs to be if he wants to keep going, the tattoos he applies on his skin a sort of armor against the pain of life. That is, until one day he makes an incredible discovery that turns his world upside down in a major way.
I’m not going to tell you what that discovery is, it’s best if you find out for yourselves. What I can share is that this story quickly became emotionally wrenching and brought me close to tears: my previous encounters with Ms. Lowachee’s writing elicited many emotions, mostly compassion for her abused, tormented characters, but I never felt anything so deeply touching as I did for Paris Azarcon.
Trust me, just read this amazing, heartbreaking story: it’s more than worth your time…