The Stars Change, by Mary Anne Mohanraj

Mary Anne Mohanraj’s short novel The Stars Change imagines a world in
which all the promise of society has been—nominally—reached, placing its
inhabitants on the brink of an all-out war that could decide the fate of not
only their world but their entire known universe.  The Stars Change
plumbs the depths of the humanist philosophical debate, inviting the reader to
consider what parts of us—bodies, minds, emotions, intelligence, instinct,
urges—really make us human, and whether humanity is really the ideal for which
we all should strive. 

Taking
place on a world in which the largest university ever created—the University of
All Worlds—has been built as a place of learning and cooperation, The Stars Change alternates between the
points of view of a palette of characters both human and non-human—feline,
reptilian, insectoid, and more—with each person’s story intersecting and
setting off waves of consequence for those against whom they bump up.  Though the plot progression is linear, The Stars Change places emphasis on the
incidental—that which takes place at the same time, just before, or just after
a character’s experience—to show how even the smallest actions can have a deep
effect on others, especially the unknown other. 

At
first the novel may be difficult to get into, as the opening chapter is a
stream of consciousness from an unnamed actor.  The reader doesn’t find out until the end how the beginning
is relevant.  Mohanraj sketches
characters quickly, allowing readers to learn about them from each other’s
actions and reactions, from the way they think of others and in small
flashbacks throughout the tightly plotted action of the story.  Each character experiences desire,
fear, and need in their own ways. 
Mohanraj has created a story that allows all characters to be
individuals and yet take part in the sentient ecology of their world as part of
a larger whole.  Though characters
achieve greater self-knowledge and, in many instances greater peace with themselves,
by the end of the story, it is the reader who benefits most from the many
perspectives on consciousness and humanity that the characters bring.

Readers who enjoy far-future science
fiction that imagines humans and non-human life forms coexisting, as well as a
look at the future of medical technology, will enjoy the ways that Mohanraj
imagines the future.  Readers
looking for a future that includes underrepresented groups of people will also
enjoy the novel.  Adventurous
readers interested in human psychology what attracts people to each other will
find much to think about in The Stars
Change.

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