Light from Uncommon Stars
June 26, 2022 5:04 PM - Subscribe

Good Omens meets The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet in Ryka Aoki's Light From Uncommon Stars, a defiantly joyful adventure set in California's San Gabriel Valley, with cursed violins, Faustian bargains, and queer alien courtship over fresh-made donuts.

Shizuka Satomi made a deal with the devil: to escape damnation, she must entice seven other violin prodigies to trade their souls for success. She has already delivered six.

When Katrina Nguyen, a young transgender runaway, catches Shizuka's ear with her wild talent, Shizuka can almost feel the curse lifting. She's found her final candidate.

But in a donut shop off a bustling highway in the San Gabriel Valley, Shizuka meets Lan Tran, retired starship captain, interstellar refugee, and mother of four. Shizuka doesn't have time for crushes or coffee dates, what with her very soul on the line, but Lan's kind smile and eyes like stars might just redefine a soul's worth. And maybe something as small as a warm donut is powerful enough to break a curse as vast as the California coastline.

As the lives of these three women become entangled by chance and fate, a story of magic, identity, curses, and hope begins, and a family worth crossing the universe for is found.
posted by DowBits (11 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'm curious what other folks thought of this one. I liked it a first, but ended up less enamoured.
posted by DowBits at 5:05 PM on June 26, 2022

This is next on my list. It might be days or weeks before I get to it, but I'll let you know what I thought!
posted by Acari at 6:26 PM on June 26, 2022

I kept reading praise for this book, but the combination of plot elements seemed so outlandish that it kinda put me off. But I finally decided to give it a try. I'm glad I did! I liked it a lot.

The combination of elements (violins, the devil, aliens, donuts, transgender folks) really isn't like anything else I've read. I thought it worked pretty well for the most part. There were lots of mentions of foods that I didn't recognize (but that's on me -- I've been pretty parochial in my food choices most of my life) but they all intrigued me.

I think it does get a little weaker toward the end, but I was satisfied with the resolution of the book.

I get to read it again next month for my SFF book club. It'll be interesting to see what the others in the group thought!
posted by Archer25 at 6:52 PM on June 26, 2022 [1 favorite]

I just finished this book today! I liked it a lot; it scratched the itch for me of something similar to Becky Chambers, with a bit of the same warm feeling of The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune. The food descriptions were lovely and I want a half Alaska donut and coffee so bad now.
posted by lizard music at 7:33 PM on June 26, 2022

Maybe I missed something, but I was put off by the way Markus' violent outburst was handled (send him home so he can rejoin the military), and with Miss Satomi's damning souls to hell being ok because... she had reasons? Which were never explained, or maybe I didn't understand?
posted by DowBits at 8:46 PM on June 26, 2022 [1 favorite]

Here is the playlist from the author for the music mentioned within it
posted by GnomePrime at 2:24 PM on June 29, 2022

Well, that was weird.

I enjoyed it! Especially the first third where I was just completely uncertain how the different plots could possibly connect. The ending with everyone off on their own new adventures was satisfying.

The donut family was great, but I agree that the whole Markus thing was not the best. Everyone else gets compassionate conversation, but he just gets ignored until he suddenly breaks? He could have been completely removed from the book in my opinion.

I don't think the book presented Miss satomi's contact as being okay or redeemed or anything.

I'm most interested in demons only having power on one planet. What are they, then?
posted by Acari at 12:34 PM on July 2, 2022

I'm not clear the logic on demons only being limited to one planet, but I am totally down with the rationale that if they couldn't stop the broadcasts traveling through space, then the sphere of influence was limited.

I wasn't sure what to expect, but the level of "yes, we are throwing some odd things together here" worked for me.
posted by rmd1023 at 4:28 PM on July 19, 2022 [1 favorite]

This book has everything! I liked it a lot, the excellent and loving writing about food and music.
It’s also set in the part of the LA suburbs where my grandparents lived, so it was excellent to be brought around to some familiar locales, which were similarly lovingly written and matched with my experience of the area.
posted by Jon_Evil at 8:19 AM on July 28, 2022

I’ve come to this book a bit late, due to it only now showing up in my library’s ebook offerings.

I’m up to the day of the competition, and have to say I am enjoying the read a lot. It’s such an odd mingling of, well, stuff. With donuts! So many possibilities/outcomes have been telegraphed that I’m not exactly certain where it’s all going to actually land.

I’ll check-in later when I finish!
posted by Thorzdad at 12:56 PM on February 18, 2023

Okay. Done.

Overall, a really fun read, with a ton of entertaining characters. It clicks-along pretty quickly and I can’t say it ever severely lagged anywhere. Katrina’s performance at the competition was especially vivid and exciting to read.

I definitely think various components were either telegraphed well in advance, or easily anticipated/predicted in one way or another. That doesn’t diminish the book, though. I highly recommend it. It’s a fun, if delightfully messy, read.

I was very much hoping for a coda featuring Katrina, years into the future, teaching her own student, in the same house. Still with Astrid? Maybe a holographic Astrid? To be honest, Astrid’s the one character I really wanted to be fleshed-out more.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:57 AM on February 19, 2023

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