I’ve been scouring science fiction shelves since I was six, desperately searching for female protagonists and semi-realistic, relatable stories. Over the years I’ve found a few that inspired or impacted me, but none as much as Dawn Among the Stars by Samantha Heuwagen. I just finished it and my initial reaction is, “I can’t wait for you to release the next one!”
Dawn Among the Stars follows three humans during and after an alien invasion. It primarily features two alien races: the Shielders and Temorshians, as an intergalactic war unfolds between them, threatening all life on earth. Heuwagen describes their politics in a way that makes them seem accessible and intriguing. The main characters are dynamic and they’re written in such a visceral way that you’ll believe you’re standing right next to them as they battle for their lives.
In the interest of keeping this short, sweet, and shareable, here are three reasons I think you should support this incredible author and her story (soon to be a series!):
1. The seamless fusion of feminism, social justice, and science fiction.
Heuwagen wrote Dawn Among the Stars because, as a women’s and gender studies professor, sex therapist, and social justice advocate, she recognized how few stories depicted complex female characters and real societal issues. Heuwagen’s mission to propagate feminism and social justice is evident from the moment the first protagonist, Kayin Aves, is introduced.
Kayin is my favorite because she’s strong and feminine. One of her best “shallow moments,” (necessary to create a realistic character) occurs in chapter seven when she’s been taken aboard an alien craft:
“She handed me a ruby-red robe with orange beading all around the hem, neckline, and arms. It was a little big but the huge train was to die for, so I didn’t mind.”
Who doesn’t love a good train? 😀
More importantly, Kayin has anxiety, and her journey has as much to do with surviving aliens as it does with surviving her own mind. This is apparent with the other characters too, and a major theme of the story.
Kayin’s journey also features other similarly complex female characters, including a lesbian warrior princess grieving her fallen partner and a mother forced to transform into a killer to save her family.
All of the beings in Dawn Among the Stars promote deeper thinking about human (and alien) rights and the class systems we use to categorize and marginalize the people on our planet.
2. Nuanced, surprising alien narratives are rare.
I’ve found that many authors writing about aliens either settle for well-worn science fiction or fantasy tropes or ignore the details completely. Heuwagen builds her own universe with small nods to conspiracy theorists like myself with elements like an alien race that have been secretly providing leaders on Earth with technology for decades. Her descriptions of the brave and secretive Shielders and the invading Temorshians are detailed and inventive with flashes of brilliance that kept me turning the pages.
Later on in the story, we revisit the same time period through the eyes of Kayin’s ex-boyfriend Henry and her colleague, Melissa. Both of them meet more strong women (and men) along the way and confront their worst fears and the darkest underbelly of humanity. When I got to the end, I was impressed with the planning and forethought that had gone into the beginning. This isn’t just another alien story, it’s also a story about what it means to survive and thrive, and it surprised me more than once, an exceptionally tough feat!
3. It’s only the beginning.
Dawn Among the Stars is the first book in the Starless series, slated to be a trilogy published through Trifecta Publishing House. The story ends at a relatively good stopping point but I know I’m not the only one who feels a little sad now that it’s over. I’m especially desperate to get back to Kayin.
If Dawn Among the Stars is any indication, the series will continue to explore humanity and morality and dig deeper into the already well-developed main characters.
I can’t wait to see what else this fresh new voice has in store for us.
“His body was littered with the markings of his military rank, leaving almost no blank space. For a Shielder with power and status, he was young.”
“My words hung in the air, floating away in the breeze that was steadily picking up speed.”
“A nervous sweat began to trickle down my back, leaving a searing path in its wake. I could taste the panic as it bubbled up into my throat.”
“If our roles were reversed-like you said-do you think you could have watched as I broke in front of you?” // “I”m not a toy! I wasn’t breaking in front of you!”
“…You don’t go around drugging people because it’s easy-you fucking help them!”