Member Reviews

There are some fantastic stories in this collection: Girasol particularly stood out for the beauty of its prose. I also adored the speculative fiction thread running throughout this volume.

I loved the idea of the collection but I didn’t feel that all the stories worked cohesively here or were equally able to hold my attention. I still think this is worth a read - this is the kind of collection that everyone can find a gem in.

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I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I'll be honest, I requested this book because I love Seanan McGuire, particularly her short fiction, but once I'd read her story in here, I carried through and read the others, and found most of them to be pretty good. It's a weird time to be reviewing a collection about migration, if you're based in the US, of course; this collection does nothing to allay anyone's fears about where we might be heading either short- or long-term. But I also welcomed a more global perspective (sometimes extra-global) here where the issues weren't just those afflicting the desperate people unlucky enough to be caught up in the United States' horrific immigration system - but these stories also think through migration elsewhere, through a sci-fi lens that involves aliens, dragons but also non-American issues equally worthwhile of our attention. There were no particular standouts (not even McGuire), but I also didn't find any big duds. Warmly recommended if you can stomach being reminded of the news while reading fantasy/sci fi.

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Shades Within Us is an anthology of stories around the themes of migrations and borders. Loosely following the other 2 anthologies in the 'social causes' series, this one includes 21 pieces of speculative fiction from both well known and new-to-me authors. As far as I can see from the publisher info, all the stories are original to this book.

I've always had a particular fondness for collections/anthologies because short fiction is spare and technically challenging, so you get a better feel for an author's expertise with the form. Short fiction is less of a time commitment as well, so if one story is not working for you, there's another piece readily available in a few pages. Short fiction anthologies are also a rich source for finding new authors so you can search out their other works.

Released 8th Sept. 2018 by Laksa Media, it's available in hardcover, paperback, and ebook formats.

There are a number of standout stories in this anthology which really resonated with me. There's an ever increasing urgency to people's awareness of the fragility of our world and there are also a number of stories which include global warming and environmental damage as central themes. Interwoven throughout is the idea that what binds us together are our shared experiences and the things we have in common rather than our differences.

One of the things that struck me about the other reviews I've read was that although they certainly mentioned the commonalities and themes of borders and immigration and humanity but I couldn't really find anyone else mentioning that this is also a collection of REALLY good stories by really gifted authors writing at the top of their game. There are gems here which will stick with the reader long after they're finished.

Although this is a topical book (border crossings, immigration, 'the other', etc), it's not just a headline-of-the-day collection. These stories stand on their own merit.

Four stars (the stories are all in the 3-5 star range).

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes

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This is the most stylish and thought-provoking anthology of speculative fiction I have read in many years. Each story takes a different slant on a question of migration, displacement, refugee camps, or the inner manifestations of those circumstances. As with any collection of diverse authors, the individual stories run the gamut from lean, crisp writing to leisured and beautiful sentences, from straightforward tales of love and loss to complex variations on the theme. Nothing rushed or simplistic. It was a joy to read.

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I knew this topic would be a winner for me, and it was.
Some really brilliant gems from some authors familiar to me, and some brand new to me.
Like all anthologies, there were ups and downs but overall this was a brilliant collection.

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I really liked the theme of this book, and I think it succeeded in encouraging diverse voices and creative worldbuilding, while also providing timely and relevant commentary on social issues (xenophobia, racism and environmental concerns being common recurring themes).

There are definitely some confronting stories included in this book, I legitimately cried at one point, but I think the messages conveyed by Shades Within Us is an important one. If you enjoy challenging fiction with incredible worldbuilding that doesn't skimp on social commentary, this book is for you.

By far my standout favourites were SL Huang's story Devouring Tongues, From the Shoals of Broken Cities by Heather Osborne (I'd never read anything by her, but now I really want to) and Remember the Green by Seanan McGuire (she's one of my favourite authors, so no surprise there). All three of these stories had a clear message, while still telling an engrossing and believable story.
I also very much enjoyed Imago, Porque el Girasol se llama el Girasol and In a bar by the ocean, the world waits; the worldbuilding in the first two in particular being fascinating to me. I want to read a novel length work by the authors right now!

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Shades Within Us is a difficult read that is absolutely worth all of the heartbreak on every page. If you like speculative fiction, you need to read this anthology.

[su_quote style="modern-orange" cite="Goodreads" url=”GOODREADS LINK TO YOUR BOOK"]

Journey with twenty-one speculative fiction authors through the fractured borders of human migration to examine assumptions and catch a glimpse of the dreams, struggles, and triumphs of those who choose--or are forced--to leave home and familiar places. Who straddle borders within our worlds--and within us.

Migration. A transformation of time, place, and being . . .

We are called drifters, nomads. We are expatriates, evacuees, and pilgrims. We are colonists, aliens, explorers; strangers, visitors--intruders, conquerors--exiles, asylum seekers, and . . . outsiders.

An American father shields his son from Irish discrimination; A Chinese foreign student wrestles to safeguard her family at the expense of her soul; A college graduate is displaced by technology. A Nigerian high school student chooses between revenge and redemption; A bureaucrat parses the mystery of Taiwanese time travelers; A defeated alien struggles to assimilate into human culture. A Czechoslovakian actress confronts the German WWII invasion. A child crosses an invisible border wall. And many more.

Stories that transcend borders, generations, and cultures. Each is a glimpse into our human need in face of change: to hold fast to home, to tradition, to family; and yet to reach out, to strive for a better life. [/su_quote]

I received an eARC of Shades Within Us via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
The stories in Shades Within Us range from science fiction to fantasy and everywhere in between, with a mix of different tenses and points of view. I'm pretty sure that each one is designed specifically to break the reader's heart. It definitely did for me.

I think something that would have been useful in this anthology would have been trigger warnings for each story. Nearly every story had at least a few of your typical triggers, and even though I'm not generally triggered, it made it a little difficult to read.

There are tons of stories in this anthology, so I'm going to write about the ones that stood out to me as a reader. I really loved four stories in particular.

Habitat by Christie Yant
Habitat is a bit of a solarpunk story told from the perspective of the person in charge of catching the people who live in the wild on Earth. Once they're captured, they're to be assimilated into the Habitat culture. Readers get to see her realize why what they are doing is wrong and harmful. I thought this story was beautifully written and an important read for those of us who are more privileged.

Defender of Mogadun by Alex Shvartsman
Defender of Mogadun spends a lot of time talking about the responsibility to do something to help when the world around you is under attack. I loved the fantastical parts of this story tied in with the harsh realities for refugees of mass disasters.

Remember the Green by Seanan McGuire
I think this is actually the first story I've ever read by Seanan McGuire, surprisingly.  Remember the Green shows the experience of migrating to a new place and how isolating it is. McGuire's writing is as lush and green as the world that the main character's family had to leave behind.

Devouring Tongues by S. L. Huang
Devouring Tongues stunned me with its beautiful writing and a story of learning languages that I had never dreamed of. Readers will feel the main character's homesickness and anguish through Huang's writing, and cheer for her.

Overall, this anthology is amazing. You'll want to pick up a copy through Amazon or Indiebound.

[su_box title="ABOUT SHADES WITHIN US" style="default" box_color="#ff4400" title_color="#f2f2f2" radius="3" class=""]

Title: Shades Within Us: Tales of Migrations and Fractured Borders

Author: Vanessa Cardui, Elsie Chapman, Kate Heartfield, S.L. Huang, Tyler Keevil, Matthew Kressel, Rich Larson, Tonya Liburd, Karin Lowachee, Seanan McGuire, Brent Nichols, Julie NovAkovA, Heather Osborne, Sarah Raughley, Alex Shvartsman, Amanda Sun, Jeremy Szal, Hayden Trenholm, Liz Westbrook-Trenholm, Christie Yant & Alvaro Zinos-Amaro

Editor: Susan Forest & Lucas K. Law

Publisher: Laksa Media Groups Inc.

Release Date: September 8, 2018

Rating: ★★★★★ / Five stars

Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Science Fantasy



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"Shades Within Us: Tales of Migrations and Fractured Borders" is the latest anthology (Book 4) in the "Laksa Anthology Series: Speculative Fiction." This volume in the series focuses on the concept of migration and identity. Even though this is a work of speculative fiction, the stories within it are very topical. The book contains stories by authors you have heard of, and by authors you have not heard of, but each story is worth the read.

Each story varies from protagonist to protagonist and their characteristics: race, age, ethnicity, sex, gender, education, sexuality, and of course, reason for migration. Each story takes place in a different part of the world, but with the reason each protagonist migrates, he/she/they realize there is a cost that comes along with it, usually a form of identity. At the same time, the protagonist has to find a way to cope with the changes of living in a new place can entail.

The speculative fiction inclusion allows for the reader to gain more understanding into what that cost can equate to, whether or not it is language, folklore and other beliefs, different dimensions, or magic. In addition, this inclusion allows for a better grasp as to what people bring and leave behind when migration occurs. This method of narration allows for more empathy towards the protagonists, their families, and what and who they left behind.

"Shades Within Us: Tales of Migrations and Fractured Borders" is an anthology that will leave you wondering about your family history with how and why certain members migrate either by immigration, or by emigration. It will make readers consider their identity and which part of their family's identity and culture's identity they continue to practice and why. There is a story in this anthology for all readers to enjoy.

I apologize for my late review of this book.

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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I received an ARC of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Great book. It is a very poignant read for the times.

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This is an incredible genre-bending collection of stories from a group of amazingly talented writers. From science fiction to fantasy to things that are difficult to even narrow down in a word or two, SHADES WITHIN US tells the story of various types of migrations and borders. Places, people, time, space, emotions - so many of these stories were topical and important to read in today's political climate. Themes of belonging and identity are repeated throughout in various ways, and I loved the inclusivity here. Would definitely recommend!

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This was such a special and fascinating collection of stories! Each story wowed me in different ways and each spoke uniquely on its own. This is a collection of speculative fiction short stories about migrations and borders, and the reasons people seek other places. Each story shows the reader how migrations or the crossing of borders can be more than just physically moving from one’s home, these changes can also be emotional, mental, or cultural. And they impact every person in different ways. All of these stories show us that ‘home’ can be a fluid concept and it is very much a concept that we carry within us in addition to being a physical place.

These stories were all so very impactful and each carries its own message, they truly all felt like the author’s were contributing a part of themselves within these stories. I really enjoyed reading this collection and found myself consuming it slower than I usually do most books, because it felt like I needed time to savor each of these stories. There wasn’t a single story that I rated lower than 3 stars during my reading of this, and the majority of them were all 4 or 5 star reads for me.

A few of the stand out five star reads for me were:

“Porque el Girasol se llama Girasol”- Rich Larson
This story involved a group of migrants essentially quantum walking through borders. Also, there are terrifying monsters that can catch you if you falter while crossing. There is a “wall” mentioned several times in the story, and it definitely hit some eerily similar notes to today’s world. Fear and the need to help your family escape were heavy in this story. The atmosphere of this short story was just so terrifying and important.

“Habitat”- Christie Yant
In this story the inhabitants of Earth have brought upon themselves a self-imposed apocalypse and in order to save what remains of Earth and themselves, they have created Habitat-- a new sustainable living space for survivors. However, the reverse of the situation is turned on its head in this story as we see that denizens of Habitat are constantly sweeping the remains of human tribes on Earth away from their lives out in the open to be force-integrated into life within Habitat. I loved the conservation message of this one.

“Devouring Tongues”- S.L. Huang
An intricate look at the ways that languages help us transcend borders, but how our first language, even if it may not be prominently used culturally, can feel like home to us. A Chinese foreign student in Japan desperately sells parts of her soul to the Reaper, in an attempt to master her multilingual learning and ultimately create safe passage for her family, but along the way realizes she is losing parts of her culture that she cannot afford to lose.

“The Vagabond of Trudeau High”- Sarah Raughley
This ended up being my favorite short story in the entire collection. It carries such a powerful, important and relevant message for all of us today. A young girl of Nigerian immigrants experiences police brutality firsthand when she witnesses her father being brutally beaten one night. Incorporating elements of Yoruba folklore, she is offered a chance at revenge and must decide what is most important to her. At school, amidst the parameters of a patriotic assignment, she struggles to define what being Canadian means for her and those around her who feel anything but “at home” here.

Each of these stories were so very different in particulars, but so unifying in their messages. I loved the aspects of speculative fiction that the authors added to these stories and the fluid genre nature of each story. Though each story has an element of ‘other’ to it, it doesn’t take much to imagine that they all could very well take place in the world we live in right now. This is such an important collection of stories and I hope it gets the recognition it deserves!

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There were some truly amazing stories in this anthology. It was wonderful to see so many different perspectives, so many different kinds of people from stories set in the past, present and future in countries all over the world, the one thing connecting them all being that they're tales of migration, facing the struggles, prejudices and barriers that come hand in hand with moving their lives across the boarders.

I don't think there were any stories that I particularly disliked, but there were definitely some that stood out more than others. I adored the way that language played a big part in stories like Porque El Girasol se Llama el Girasol by Rich Larson, Inkskinned by Jeremy Szal and Devouring Tongues by S.L Huang. I also really loved Critical Mass by Liz Westbrook- Trenholm and The Travellers by Amanda Sun.

The only real problem I had with this anthologies is as the subject matter can be so upsetting and dark, I found that reading them back to back was really quite depressing. I wouldn't take issue with the book itself, but I would advise readers to take a step back and read something else for a bit of a break, which as they're short stories is very easy to do!

I wholeheartedly recommend this book though. There were beautiful, important and heartbreaking stories throughout the anthology and really show different ways of viewing the world.

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Shades Within Us is a compelling collection of stories. They have an abundance of foci and perspectives. But one thing that unites them all is that they celebrate the differences among us. Ranging from third person perspectives to first person and even second person POVs, this collection was certainly captivating. None of the stories in particular stood out more than the rest, and I think that's excellent. They each shine yet fit so well with each other. As to the editing of this anthology, I thought the ordering of the stories was perfect. Each story flowed so well into the next, even if it was just with the barest connection. For example, the penultimate story involves a girl trying to learn English and Japanese. The final story involves a man trying to learn Gaelic. Both of the characters have moved with their families to foreign lands: Japan for the girl, Ireland for the man. I am sure the ordering of the stories was deliberate, and it works. As for a qualm, a lot of the stories took a bit to get into the flow of things. That is to say, I wasn't hooked in the beginning for a lot of them, but they all had me gripped in the end.

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Shades Within Us was absolutely amazing! I saw Seanan McGuire's name and immedietely requested this and I was not disappointed. Every author had great writing and I flew through this.

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To start with i wasnt sure what to expect from this novel, but the premise of it intrigued me endlessly. It turns out that i actually quite enjoyed it adn found the various writing styles to be a refreshing as there were no two stories the same.

So, the uniting them of all the amazing short stories in this collection is that of borders and migration. While I found the premise interesting, I expected a collection of 'alien approached border and was refused' along with tales of boat people and illegal immigrants. I dont know why since its a collection of spec fiction.

There are stories ranging from aliens finding refuge after a great war, the quest of a mother and daughter through various portals to enter the United States (this one made my heart hurt) to the tale of time travelling refugees to save the world before they destroy it in the future.

With hard hitting authors such as Seanan McGuire and Tyler Keevil within this novels alumna, Shades Within Us contains stories which will make you run the gamut of human emotions. Overall I really enjoyed this book.

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This is a beautiful anthology in more ways than one: on a surface level, its cover is beautifully designed; deeper down, its core collective impulse and ethic is also beautiful. The introduction by Eric Choi and Gillian Clinton makes clear the stakes: the world is not as it should be, does not treat the people who move within it as they should be treated, and the resilience of displaced peoples is not necessarily armor against climate change and technological advances untempered by humane policies. Standout stories for me included the deeply optimistic "Remembering the Green" by Seanan McGuire (always a good bet, that McGuire), the heart-wrenching "Porque El Girasol Se Llama El Girasol" by Rich Larson, the satisfying "Inkskinned" by Jeremy Szai, and the pleasurable mashup of birding and speculative fiction in "Gilbert Tong's Life List" by Kate Heartfield. Matthew Kressel's "The Marsh of Camarina" also brings birds into the mix, making for a synergistic transition to weird but wonderful works like Heather Osborne's "From the Shoals of Broken Cities" and S.L. Huang's "Devouring Tongues." Last but not least, my favorites are rounded out by two stories firmly grounded in existing displaced cultures. Readers who love Nnedi Okorafor's "Akata Witch" series will find a short story home in Sarah Raughley's rightfully outraged and undeservedly generous "The Vagabond of Trudeau High," while those keen to find intersectional works will be most pleased by Tyler Keevil's "Voices," a work which blends questions of identity, family, neurodivergence, and the alien, all while gently questioning toxic gender norms.

Intersectionality may not be the primary guiding principle of this anthology, but it is present in nearly every story contained hererin; importantly for me, this awareness extends to the LGBTQIA+ community as well as communities traditionally othered for reasons of skin color, country of origin, gender, religion, and neurodivergence. A portion of the proceeds from the book go towards the Mood Disorders Association and the Alex Community Food Centre. The stories are not always winsome or whimsical; they delve into the dark and the twisted as often as they do into the empowering and uplifting. Agency is always at stake, and self-awareness lurking just below. This anthology splits the difference between rambunctious new collections like "Robots vs. Fairies" and serious commentaries on the immigrant experience, such as "Becoming Americans." The editors do not clearly state that the anthology contributors were selected for their own migrant experiences, but many tap into first-, second-, or third-generation as well as other personal ancestral histories for inspiration. Many are established voices, others have just recently released their debut books, and still others are deeply enmeshed in careers entirely separate from speculative fiction—so there's something here to please everyone, especially readers looking to sample some new voices unafraid to tackle hard subjects in imaginative ways.

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I was so excited to read this book and toyed with the idea of waiting until it was published to grab a copy. Luckily, I decided to take the plunge on NetGalley and was overjoyed to be given a copy! 'Shades Within Us' is a timely speculative fiction anthology and feaures such big names as Seanan McGuire, S. L. Kuang and Tyler Keevil. Each of the twenty-one stories cover different themes, most of which are significantly deeper than your usual speculative fiction or science fiction. These are stories that transcend borders, generations, and cultures. Each is a glimpse into our human need in face of change: to hold fast to home, to tradition, to family; and yet to reach out, to strive for a better life.

The previous books in this series have received widespread critical acclaim and this one i'm positive will be no exception. I haven't read the others so I can't compare them, but I purchased them the second I realised how awesome these stories are! Despite being identified as speculative, most of these stories seem as though they are ripped from today's headlines, and each does a great job in asking the reader to reflect on how they can change their lives for the better, as well as the lives of others. We certainly need some of that right now! There are a few of the stories that fall back on well-worn tropes of the genre, but most are refreshingly original. This is a daring and wonderful collection that adds to the future as imagined by authors such as George Orwell, Margaret Atwood and Philip K. Dick.

The key theme and topical issue that unifies each story is that of immigration. But also explored are identity, belonging and the marginalised. I found most of the tales to be of exceptional quality, with important messages to boot. I simply couldn't pick a favourite as there was such a wide selection and each was indispensable in its own way. A great collection that is well worth investing your time in. Highly recommended.

Many thanks to Laksa Media Groups for an ARC. I was not required to post a review, and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

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This a beautiful and necessary compilation of short stories all telling a different tale of immigration. It's a book everyone can learn from and enjoy. The range of authors ensures that it never feels repetitive despite the subject matter being the same.

I would highly recommend this collection, it's simply stunning (as is the cover)

My favourites were Defender of Mogadun by Alex Shvartsman & Shades of Void by Alvaro Zinos-Amaro

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This anthology of speculative, dystopian, science fiction has a varied collection of stories, some more compelling than others. For libraries with a strong demand for this type of fiction/short story collections.

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I took a chance on this one, hoping that the science fiction approach to stories of immigration would be interesting and also hoping that the stories would be balanced. Turns out they're fairly preachy and seem intent on showing a one-sided view of current immigration issues around the world. The stories are told from the immigrants' point of view and can't be taken for anything more than what they are.

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