Peridot Watkins is a precocious teen with a penchant for adventure. Growing up on a remote island without access to the outside world has left Peridot at odds with her aggressively protective mother. A chance meeting with a young refugee from the mainland offers Peridot a window into a dystopian Planet Earth. Humans are no longer at the top of the food chain and are now being exploited for production by non-human animals. Fantasy, action, and animal rights create the ultimate YA fiction trifecta in Ray Star’s debut coming-of-age novel, Earthlings: The Beginning.
Star’s premise, the concept of humans being forced to experience the very same abuse endured by millions of non-human animals, is one that has been explored before. However, Star’s approach to this premise is wholly unique. Star incorporates elements of both fantasy and science fiction with a clear and passionate vision. Peridot is a complex teenager, forced to balance new knowledge of her identity whilst coming to terms with the newfangled horrors of the world around her, where systemic abuse, violence, and the threat of impending war are a constant presence. Star’s writing, however, does not dwell on the oppression of her fictional world. Rather, her writing is empowering and optimistic.
Underlying Star’s writing is a feeling of hopefulness, a trait commonly missing from the cli-fi genre. Cli-fi focuses on, and often ruminates in, the destruction of a climate-ravaged future. Earthlings, however, instead provides an allegorical reading on the innate cruelty of our current environmental practices. As most readers are aware, animal agriculture is one of the most environmentally destructive, if not the most environmentally destructive, practices on our planet. What better way to emphasize the horrors of animal agriculture than to illustrate that practice on humans? In this way, the reader experiences two feelings at once: a disgust toward the brutality of living-being agriculture and an innate hope that a character like Peridot can successfully fight these systemic abuses.
Earthlings is a fun, audacious, magickal read. Ray Star is a talented writer with the ability to build an utterly unique world that is simultaneously rooted deeply in reality. With two sequels in the works, I look forward to following the Earthlings trilogy. Peridot is a character worth investing in and Earthlings is certainly a novel worth picking up.