Scions of an Enigma
by Gabriel Anthony Lopez
Pen Culture Solutions

"They're after a place that has only been mentioned in our prophecies and lore. It's a place called Earth."

In this short science-fiction novella, a planet’s leader must follow prophecies to save his own home as well as a fabled world called Earth. Eight years after escaping insurrectionists on Charybdis I, Byeolsu rules over Charybdis II. The planet is populated by locals and Charyibdisian refugees, all of whom respect their ruler. Byeolsu thinks he loves Tati, a Charybdis II native, but their relationship is complicated. One day in the wilderness, Byeolsu finds Smyr, a lost young man from Charybdis I. Smyr claims that he too came on an evacuation ship but cannot account for the last eight years since he supposedly arrived on Charybdis II. Byeolsu and Tati vacillate between trust and suspicion when it comes to Smyr’s identity, and this mistrust starts to affect their feelings for each other. All three must head to Charybdis I to uncover the plot behind Smyr’s sudden appearance. In the process, they discover that the fate of the known universe rests in Byeolsu’s hands.

The political intrigue between worlds and races in this story brings to mind that of the Star Wars universe. Indeed, the story’s villain closely resembles Emperor Palpatine in his all-encompassing desire for power. However, the attention to the characters’ inner workings more closely resembles the short fiction of Ray Bradbury. The narrative never forgets that its heroes are people first and political entities second. For example, Tati’s wavering loyalties and her unexpected technological skills help make her more than a mere love interest. The mysterious circumstances around Smyr’s arrival shift the plot rather abruptly to a more action-based story, but this sudden change works with the fast pace of the text. The action-driven storyline leaves little space for an explanation of the prophecies that compel the characters. However, Lopez’s worldbuilding is overall fascinating and thorough.

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