The Last Run by J Scott CoatsworthThe Last Run by J Scott Coatsworth is a science fiction short story set in a time where humanity has ventured out into the universe and established colonies on other worlds.

Tharassas is one of the planets humanity has colonized. Small and agrarian, the people survive by harvesting the berries of the native hencha plant.

Jas has spent the majority of her life working on a hencha farm, harvesting the berries essential for the colony’s diet. She has always felt a special connection with the plants and works tirelessly tending to them. The monotony of harvesting is broken one day however, when she learns that the long-awaited Market Day is approaching. The runners are finally coming.

Sera and her wife Tavi are runners; crew on a supply ship carrying goods and raw materials from Earth to the colonies. Desperate to escape a doomed Earth before it’s too late, they put everything they have into securing a contract for the next supply run to Tharassas. But a malfunction in the ship causes it to crash into the planet’s surface destroying the cargo and leaving Sera stranded.

Jas is the first to arrive at the crash site and pulls Sera from the ship before it is destroyed. But the rest of the colonists are not as quick to help, nor as welcoming. Circumstances brought them together but are they prepared for the consequences of their meeting?

The Characters

Jas’Aya is an outcast among her people. Her dark hair a stark contrast to the prevalent blond the colonists of the planet possess. She is not only physically different, but her special connection with the hencha plants alienates her even more from the other colonists.

Sera is a runner in more than one sense of the word. She is on a crew that is bringing supplies to one of Earth’s colony planets. She is also running from Earth and the imminent destruction and chaos of the planet. The sole survivor of her crew, she is thrust into a society that eschews outsiders and fears all she represents.

Their shared otherness draws them closer to one another however, there isn’t enough time in the story for their relationship to develop very deeply.  But having said that, the sparks are certainly there.

The Writing Style

This is a short story that clips along at a fast pace and has a lot of punch packed into its small size. The world building is quite remarkable for its length and Coatsworth does an incredible job pulling you into the narrative immediately and holding you there.

The Pros

I really loved the concept surrounding the colony, the runners, the semi-sentient flora and symbiotic relationship that developed between the colonists and the hencha. I believe this is an excellent foundation for a longer story and would absolutely love to delve deeper into this world and its characters.

The Cons

There are a few editing issues in the copy I received. I also felt, likely due to the short length of the story, that certain aspects were rushed, and the characters weren’t as three dimensional as they could have been. However, the overall concept and potential of the characters are so engaging that I would love to see this story expanded into a full-length novel which would allow for these issues to be easily addressed.

The Conclusion

If you are looking for some great science fiction that is a fast read, has engaging characters and an exciting concept, then this short story will perfectly fill that need. And did I mention semi-sentient plants?

Excerpt from The Last Run by J Scott Coatsworth

Jas’Aya stood up and straightened, rubbing her back where the muscles knotted and ached from the hard work in the field.

Around her, the purple rows of hencha plants stretched out into the distance, their red stalks moving of their own accord even when there was no breeze.

Her shoulder sack was full of hencha berries teased from the semi-sentient plant – red, orange and blue spheres that emitted the most delicious scent.

If she closed her eyes, she could almost hear the murmuring of the plants. The spoke to one another, whispers that drifted tantalizingly out of reach. She wished she could understand what they were saying.

Sometimes she felt like she got a word or two, but then it slipped away on the wind that blew steadily up the valley from the Harkness Sea.

She had stopped telling people about her little fantasies. The last time she had mentioned them, she’s gotten in trouble with her shift supervisor and had been put on probation for a week. To the rest of the crew, the hencha were just plants.

Jas dusted off her light blue skirt, the kind all the field workers wore. She needed a break, even if it was just a short one. She pulled her unusually dark hair back behind her ears and set off toward the collector.

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