Reviewed by Ryan Hisle

Trafik By Rikki Ducornet, Minneapolis, Minnesota: Coffee House Press, 114 pages, $15.95

“Trafik” is a science fiction book that follows a human astronaut named Quiver as she and her mostly friendly robot friend Mic venture across the cosmos in search of the planet Trafik. The overall tone of Trafik leaves a feeling of confusion, awe, and overwhelming weight on the mind, as Quiver and Mic experience things that no human has experienced before. Despite this, the text provides ample repeating situations to allow the reader some foresight into where the plot may be heading, while also allowing for that feeling of confusion and wonder to remain. The setting takes place amongst the stars, in a universe where humans no longer have Earth as their home, it isn’t necessarily suggested that the species is left looking for a new home to call their own, but instead going about their lives in any way they can. This is false for Quiver though, as she longs for “a world where she may awake to clouds in the sky and green grass underneath her feet while breathing clean, refreshing air.”

The story features both Quiver and Mic’s conflicts with their selves and each other as they struggle with self-purpose, longing, and loss. Quiver and Mic’s journey begins as they go about their normal routine of boring and repetitive mining amongst asteroids, while they also partake in their hobbies in their free time. Quiver explores virtual realities in what is called the Lights, seeing incredible and various things crafted within her mind, while also chasing visions of a red-haired beauty. Mic indulges in the long-past destroyed planet Earth’s varied records of recipes, fashion trends, and chases his very own elusive ghost: Al Pacino. This is the window into what our two characters’ goal is, and also the source of their pursuits and satisfaction within the story. When their most recent mining job ends in a total loss of their cargo, fear of ridicule and punishment from their boss ends in the two of them “going rogue”, and escaping through the universe in the previously mentioned search of a paradise planet named Trafik. Both the events of Quiver and Mic’s job and their dilemmas make for an interesting combination resulting in character development, climax, and conclusion.

Trafik seeks to reveal how the inner feelings and workings of human’s function in a universe where everything has changed from the way they are in our world. Passion, longing, and emotion remain, despite the higher intelligent power of humans, and the determination to seek what we want and desire still very much control the course of our lives. The same can also be said for Mic, even though he is a robot and not organic, Mic also seeks similar things to Quiver deep down, and experiences the same emotions as any human would.

Rikki Ducornet creates vivid descriptions and surprises throughout the book, encapsulating in its entirety what happens to their cargo. The surprises, as to remain surprises, will create sudden and shocking relatability between the reader and Quiver’s post-Earth universe, helping to alleviate the weird feeling produced from the odd nature of Quiver and Mic’s reality. In the beginning sections of the book, during Quiver and Mic’s job and free time, we learn the two do not get along very well. They often fight or disagree over certain things, creating room for side development amongst the progression of the plot.

Mic functions as the secondary character. Mic is what is known as a Gizmo or, in short, a robot. Though he is just a robot, Mic can feel and act as strongly as the prickliest human, lashing out in anger or sorrow should the cause be sufficient. At first, he boasts about how his very nature is his purpose, as he was made with specific goals in mind and to be able to perform them well, contrary to Quiver’s being less specific. He also talks about how he doesn’t have weird or useless parts, like a rectum. Instead, he has a “fumevap” which, unlike humans, he can fix himself and never has to “pass fumes.” Despite his overall shaming nature towards Quiver’s normal, human functions, Quiver retorts, and shifts the attitude and personality of Mic for the remainder of the book. Rikki Ducornet succeeds in making this story just as much about Mic as it is about Quiver, balancing the time they each get their description or time, almost evenly. Despite this, I feel like the nature of certain plot points aligns Quiver as the protagonist.

The point of view is that of the third person omniscient, providing the reader with as many details as Rikki can manage to share. This, mixed with a rich and unique universe, gives a lot of information to digest in short amounts of time, leaving little room for comprehension, making a second read worthwhile if the first left you intrigued enough. Because of this, I was left wondering if this could have been avoided had Rikki chose to take more time with her writing, allowing mental downtime to digest the information before moving on to the next bunch of detail.