On a very isolated, very bored space station keeping plant life alive is a very difficult matter. There is no wind to scatter the seeds, and in this environment bees no longer pollinate the artificial gardens. However, one day, a little girl called Ari changes everything. As the daughter of two famous scientists, she’s already destined to achieve many great things. Her position allows her to hold the Asteroid station’s latest scientific project- a dandelion clock grown from the rare seed packets sent from earth. Then she does the unthinkable; she blows on it, an act of defiance against the rigid rules of the station that scatters the seeds of this carefully monitored project everywhere…
Looks can be deceiving and in spite of what its name and cover suggest, Dandelion Kisses is not a ‘chick lit’ romance; it’s a botanological science fiction story. The reading experience is a lot like a stroll through a pleasant meadow; it moves at a gentle pace and is more interested in smelling the roses than engaging in conflict.
The structure of the story is set around ‘rotations’- different stages of the heroine’s life, from childhood, to young adulthood, to motherhood and finally to old age, which mirrors the seasons and cycles of life of flowers. The vibrant, organic nature of the dandelions contrasts the cold sterilised world of the stations, and the moral of this story is that life is free and passionate, and you can’t control every aspect of it.
This is all done well, and I enjoyed it. I liked its understated, subversive approach to gender. I liked the fact that Ari comes from a line of intelligent, revolutionary female scientists. I like that career success, rank, responsibility as well as motherhood were both a natural seasons of a woman’s life, and there wasn’t a conflict between the two.
However, it does take its obsession with dandelions to ridiculous extremes. There is one place in particular where it takes it too far and becomes the New Age medicine of science fiction. At the beginning, the survival of children is so uncertain that newborns aren’t considered part of the ship until they hit their second birthday. However, at the end after the change wrought by the introduction of dandelions :
‘They no longer watched a child for 784 days before they dared to welcome her into Poseidon’s ranks’.
Wait, what? So this story is saying that fricking dandelions (dandelions!) somehow solves the problem of a high infant mortality rate? Why? How?
‘The medicals muttered about bone density and mineral matrices and liver function, but after a glass or two of dandelion wine, most of them would admit they really didn’t know why.’
No. No that’s not good enough, Dandelion kisses! You’re a science fiction novel, you cannot drop something like this without giving an explanation. I could understand how it could positively impact the health and life expectancy of adults, as happiness is a real factor in health and life expectancy. But solve a wide scale problem of infant death? That is insane.
Overall, Dandelion Kisses is a very gentle short story with a very satisfactory ending. Although I much prefer stories with a lot of action and conflict, and I still cannot comprehend how the space station’s inhabitants are so obsessed with dandelions this was still worth the read.
RATING: 3 standing ovations from Keiko Obrien for proving botanists have a place on space stations/ 5