Last Star Standing
by Spaulding Taylor
Unbound Publishing

"Resist loudly or quietly, depending on your nature, but never resist your inner truth, for that is the only death that can endure."

Twenty-first-century Earth, still in tatters after World War III, is dominated by a Xirfell king who manipulates the remaining human survivors and ET refugees in a 1984-inspired tale. Aiden Tenten, born of an indigenous Australian woman raped by an infamous elite politician, is shaped in his early years by many rejections and disappointments. The attempted abortion by his mother during her pregnancy is soon followed by his adoption. A kindly couple raises him in luxury, but his private school peers scorn him as a "netty," a non-essential terrestrial worker. Though groomed to attend the Academy, a cruel betrayal ruins his bid at an academic career. Each of life's bumps and bruises spawns the development of young Aidan's fiery temperament and his ultimate association in a rebel cell of the human resistance to Xirfell rule. For the first time in his life, Aiden is winning.

Taylor melds original worldbuilding with a lively, down-to-earth storytelling style that brings twenty-third-century Earth to vivid life. The range of characters—human, half-human, extraterrestrial, and robot—and the unusual settings are described succinctly but sparely, so readers will enjoy building upon the author's descriptions with their imaginations. Told with dramatic flair, the tale is well-written and accessible to a broad readership. The dystopian sci-fi themes and motifs are spiced with some steamy romantic angst that will likely appeal to adult audiences as Aiden sorts out not just one but two romantic attractions. His life is defined by these binary oppositions as well as the 180-degree plot twists that keep him questioning his worth as he aims for a goal worth reaching. Taylor's narrative spurs readers to understand and accept the juxtaposition of inner desire and the outer reality that serves both to obstruct and to shape humanity.

A 2022 Eric Hoffer Book Award Category Finalist

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