Caterpillar, a short sci-fi story by Ashlyn Forge, was my introduction to this author. What do you look for when you discover an author whose work you had not yet read? A primary factor for me is creativity.
Ashlyn Forge’s stories had come highly recommended, and I had been looking forward to a chance to read her works. Before reading Caterpillar, I had come to know that Forge was both ambitious and bold. As my reading time is limited, I thought it appropriate to start with one of the author’s short stories to see how her creativity balanced her boldness and ambition. I was thrilled to discover that one of her short stories—Caterpillar—was available for free. I dove into the story. I was well rewarded.
Caterpillar is a tale of transformation, set in a world of archetypes of creation and destruction, which the author calls summoners and levelers. The story is principally focused on a character alternately named Lyrus, Lysel, and Lyndel based on various stages in his cycles of metamorphosis. We meet him in his Lyndel stage. One aspect of this story I appreciated was that Forge didn’t layer on an exoskeleton of back story that might have made it hard for the reader to penetrate. Instead, we are plunged into the intimate interactions Lyndel has with others. Such interplay is utilized effectively as a device to draw the reader into the story, as well as to build the world, and quite the world it is. For a story focused on the king of the levelers of destruction, Caterpillar is all about world building.
Earthers are despised interceders within Lyndel’s world, a world that had previously been in symbiotic balance before the alien Earthers’ arrival. Separated by immense chasms of class structure, species, and rank which isolate him from his own kind and from the summoners and earthers, the initially stubborn and conceited Lyndel is transformed in numerous ways as the story transpires. Eventually he blossoms into a new being with a mission to sow the seeds of reparation in building a new world order. The nature of the stages of transformation of both summoners and levelers is intriguing. That these stages are described as teases to the imagination rather than in a bulk transfer exposition is refreshing. Both strengths and weaknesses of these characters and their stages in a world of twin suns are well developed, yet leave room for one to wonder. Invoking such inventive elements as Lyndel’s love interest seeking protective cover of a sloth and the dangers of combustible caterpillars, the web woven by Caterpillar is a compelling enough introduction to the world of Lyndel’s levelers and summoners that one is left with a hunger for another dose of the elixir of this nectar.
Luckily, more of this elixir is available. While Ashlyn Forge has been so generous as to offer a free version of Caterpillar to whet your appetite, there are three books emerging from this cocoon into a series about this world. These are and will be available for modest prices at outlets such as Amazon. Forge calls this new series Chrysalis and Kings. These include:
- Caterpillar (extended version), available now.
- Chrysalis (coming soon).
- King (coming soon after that).