Graphic/Illustrated · SciFi

On a Sunbeam

Alright, I wish I had figured out a little sooner about graphic novels. In particular, this sub-genre of LGBTQ+/queer fantasy/sci-fi graphic novels. Because in the past few weeks I have read The Magic Fish and this and both have felt like a giant, cozy, warm hug and I am so very, very here for it!  

On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden

“You don’t get to decide what’s important for us. You can choose for yourself, but no one else. […] The fact that you expect people you shit on to treat you nicely shows just how delusional you are. […] Have you ever considered that something that’s trivial to you could mean…so much more to someone else? You don’t get to take the easy road out and just respect the parts of people that you recognize. And, pro tip: If you find yourself in a similar situation in the future where you’re surrounded by people you don’t understand – Try listening. It’ll work a lot better for you than talking.”

The story opens with Mia joining a deep space construction crew – traveling through space fulfilling contracts to restore old buildings for new purposes. The crew is headed by Alma (project leader) and Char (captain), in addition to Ell (tech) and Jules (general staff). The story jumps in time between present, as Mia starts to become part of the crew-family, and past, where we learn about Mia’s first love and her reasons for taking this job, as well as the backgrounds of the rest of the crew and the ways they have all ended up here now. When Mia’s full story comes out, the crew rallies around their newest member to take a dangerous mission to help her find her long-lost love.

This basically had all my favorite things: found family, space opera style, a wonderfully sweet first love romance, lots of queer characters and truly gorgeous artwork. I grabbed this from the library on a whim at the end of the shift and, even though I’m in the middle of like 3 other books with more pressing due dates, I started it immediately. And then I had to make myself put it down to go to bed. And I finished it the next day. So I guess I actually didn’t really delay my other reads that badly in the end… But oh my goodness, despite the length of this book (and the heft – it weighs a ton!) I sped through it so fast. 

Back to the book itself. Like I said, it had so much that I loved. The deep space setting is great, because there are so many options for creativity. The architectural restoration crew idea was super unique. Plus, it lent itself so well to stunning visuals. I loved, too, the fish look of the ships, the mysterious “Staircase” area of space, the games the crew (and Mia, while she was in school) played, and so many of the other little details that gave such developmental depth to the setting. We also all know I’m a sucker for a spaceship-based found family, with Firefly, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planetand The Vanished Birds, as just a few examples of absolute favorites. So the fact that that was such a central part of this graphic novel and the development of each of these characters, all lost from or feeling left out of their origins/family in some way, got me in all the right feels. 

With a little bit of adventure, a little bit of romance, a little bit of illustrative genius, and a whole lot of heart, I sunk in fast and deep to this graphic novel that is destined to become a comfort read favorite. This might be one of the shortest reviews I’ve written in awhile, but don’t let that misguide you. I just…I only have so many ways to say that reading this felt like snuggling up with a little piece of home and family, whatever that means for you. And I am pretty confident in saying that this novel is one I’ll be returning to any time I need my spirits lifted. I highly encourage anyone/everyone to go experience it for themselves!     

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