Wandering Star is a story of interstellar adventure that begins as a flashback, with an older Casandra Andrews recalling her activities during the war. Her father was President of the United Nations on a post-WW III Earth with a destroyed environment. Earth was asked to join the Galactic Alliance, but their people were considered second-class citizens and barbarians because of their aggression. Basically, Earth was allowed in because the other planets needed a thug on their side in order to defeat an invader.
Casandra represents her people well. She’s direct, determined, and she doesn’t give up. Her story begins at the age of 17, when she became the first Earther to attend the Galactic Academy. Madison, her only friend, is a loner psychic in what looks like a flying wheelchair. He and his roomate, a kind of giant bunny-bear, are building a spaceship with the help of an energy being.
When the Academy is attacked, the crew of the Wandering Star are pressed into service against the invaders. It’s time to grow up fast and put aside petty differences, like species bigotry. Casandra has to cope with the death of those she cares for, hiding emotion until she has the luxury of time to deal with her feelings. She learns to continue on through exhaustion in service of a larger struggle.
On the same theme, the invaders have developed an implant technology that removes someone’s emotions and will, turning them into a robotic slave, another of the horrific threats Casandra has to battle. Bigger issues underlie the conflict, such as religion, belief, and finding one’s place in the universe.
Casandra has lived through a time of great change. She appreciates the new world brought about in part by her actions, but only intellectually. She can’t let go of the lessons and instincts of her youth, even though they’re no longer relevant in the current world. These two versions of the same person are almost two different characters, and the best part of the story is seeing how one becomes the other, how the optimistic adventurer becomes the leader making hard decisions, winding up as a reflective woman who only wants a porch and a cup of hot chocolate.
Teri Sue Wood’s detailed pen-and-ink style does a wonderful job with alien faces, which beautifully supports her themes. Her backgrounds are fully detailed, which gives the world depth and realism. Today, the effects would be done with computer toning, but her rich textures are all handmade.
War, its strategies and sacrifices, doesn’t change much, whether it’s battles taught in history class or something being lived through or a future version. Good science fiction turns on a compelling “what if”. In this case, it’s “what if the Earth wasn’t the center of the civilized universe? how would one of its leading citizens react to attack?”
Teri Wood’s website has more information.