At its core, The Smugglers is a heartwarming coming-of-age story that shifts perspectives between the mother, Deralka, and “Boy,” giving tender insights to the challenges each faces during the most difficult physical transitions of any adolescent’s life.
How is that science fiction? Neither Deralka nor Boy are human; they just wear complex mechanical skins suits so humans don’t run in terror when they see their knife-like appendages, amplified by a “little misunderstanding” when humans first encountered their species. And as you probably guessed from the title, the story takes place on the Truck Stop at the Center of the Galaxy. The most interesting aspect, however, is the, ahem… unique puberty challenges Boy faces that would be enough to make anyone’s head swim at any age, although the subject material is firmly PG.
A deal gone wrong forces the pair to scramble to recover their merchandise, and their only hope of starting a new life. MacLaren-Wray masterfully wraps this into an engaging tale that unravels some of the mystery around the off-limits Orange Quadrant, while delivering fulfilling character arcs for both parent and child that leave me hoping this endearing pair will appear in future books. I definitely recommend this first full-length novel in the Truck Stop stories.