Our Child of the Stars – Stephen Cox

Nurse Molly and librarian Gene Myers lived an idyllic life in their fixer-upper house at the end of Crooked Street which backed onto the forest, but there was tragedy in their lives, the miscarriage which drove Molly to the bottle and almost cost both her job and their marriage, but somehow she pulled through and they held together.

It is the late sixties in Amber Grove, the young newlyweds aware of the unrest which is tearing up the country but largely untouched by it, Vietnam protests, race riots, the assassinations of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, yet it is also a time of hope, the Apollo missions, Gene always having loved the stars and believed in life “out there,” even if it was too distant to reach.

Then the day came which shook Amber Grove to its foundations, the meteor strike, the dead, the missing, the walking wounded, Gene injured as he helped put out the fires, though not as badly as many others, Molly working all hours at the hospital in the aftermath, but something isn’t right. Gene becoming convinced that Molly is keeping secrets again, she denies that she is drinking, but her eventual confession is something her husband would never have guessed and struggles to believe.

Our Child of the Stars, debut novel of Stephen Cox, is written with nostalgic affection both for the subjects it covers, small town America, loving families, the challenges of life large and small, and science fiction, as well as the characters he has created, Molly, Gene and their adopted orphaned child whom they call Cory, only survivor of the crash of the alien spaceship.

Cory’s mother, dying on the operating table, her translation unit stuttering and failing, having told the surgeon trying to save her that her people would come looking for them, warns that they will treat humanity according to how they had treated their accidental guests; to quote The Day the Earth Stood Still, “from out of space, a warning and an ultimatum,” but that is as close as Our Child of the Stars orbits to that classic work.

The events and their consequences generic, interchangeable with a dozen other such stories from E.T. to The Humans, there is a conscious effort by Cox to avoid specific references but this dreamlike quality muffles any emotion he tries to convey through his bland characters, and when he refers to the power and the impact of the diverse works of Maya Angelou, David Bowie, Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell it only highlights how naïve his own efforts are.

Eventually indicated to take place in an alternate history where the Moon landing of 1969 ended in disaster, Cox’s world and characters lack the necessary depth and involvement to support the near five hundred pages of Our Child of the Stars, his prose style unsophisticated and his plotting no more complex than the lower end genre offerings of the era he emulates, perhaps a suitable proposition for a undemanding holiday read but light years from the cutting edge of science fiction.

Our Child of the Stars is available now from Jo Fletcher Books

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