Book Review: Defy the Stars, a Roller Coaster Ride of a Read

Defy the Stars is one of those books that makes your head spin as your brain strives to process all the images being thrown at it. It’s classic space opera, with lots of space travel and planet hopping.

So What is it About?

It follows the stories of two main point-of-view characters: Noemi, a young female soldier from a far-away Milky Way planet called Genesis, and Abel, an artificially-intelligent android that she finds. Noemi, in an effort to save a friend who had been gravely injured in a space battle against their heavy-handed oppressors from Earth, boards what she thinks is an abandoned space ship looking for first aid supplies, but finds Abel and loses her friend. Her goal becomes to free her peaceful planet from Earth’s tight grip at all costs, and Abel’s goal, because he’s an android, helps her in that quest, even though it becomes apparent that, if they succeed, it will mean his own destruction, since his creator, someone he thinks of as his father, is a leading Earth scientist committed to the cause of Earth’s supremacy throughout the galaxy. 

The thing that I thought was most interesting about this book, other than the premise, the main characters, and the cool images of other planets, was the fact that Noemi’s whole motivation, and thus most of the book, is based on her desire to save a planet that we, as readers, are told relatively little about. While the space travel is definitely cool, and the relationship that develops between Noemi and Abel is heart-warming, one would think that one would need to see the planet more to understand her desire to go through all that she goes through to try and save it.

The focus, in fact, is very much the development of that relationship, as this is a YA sci-fi book. It’s a good read just for that. It’s also really fast-paced, which, as you know, I love. I would’ve liked to see a little bit more of Genesis, perhaps in her flashbacks, so that I could’ve understood Noemi’s motivations. In some ways, I understood and sympathized Abel better than I did Noemi, due to his frequent memories of his “father,” and his drive to return to him.

Visuals, Anyone?

via GIPHY

 Who Would Like Defy The Stars, And Why?

If you like anything by Beth Revis, particularly the Across the Universe series, you’ll like this.  If you liked Claudia Gray’s Thousand Pieces of You series, with its breakneck pacing, you’ll like Defy the Stars.  Obviously, if you like anything Star Trek, you’ll like this. If you like action, tough female characters, or romance, you’ll like this book.

 

Book Review: Gemina is Both Brilliant…and Not

There is a sub-genre of science fiction that is perhaps lesser known for its name—space opera—than it is for the books and movies that comprise it. Star Wars, for example, is arguably the most well-known and epic space opera set of movies, but I don’t know many people (even writers) that would think to call it that. Yet it’s a very exciting sub-genre, I think, typified by space warfaremelodramatic adventure, interplanetary battles, chivalrous romance, and risk-taking. There is no singing. Well…usually. In Amie Kaufman’s and Jay Kristoff’s Gemina, the most recent book in their Illuminae series, there is plenty of singing, albeit of the pop-wormhole-station-PA-system variety, and plenty of warfare, adventure, romance, and risk-taking. In fact, there may even be too much; if it were a movie, it would be R-rated for its violence. But as a book, it’s brilliant…in a convoluted way.

What Gemina is About

The short, spoiler-free version? It’s about a ruthless special-ops team that tries to take over a space station called the Heimdall, a wormhole-manning waypoint, and the few teenagers who must fight ruthlessly to stay alive. The full, spoiler-rich version you can find on this lovely new site I found called BookSeriesRecaps.com. It’s a graphic novel, meaning it’s told through a collection of chat room transcripts, surveillance footage summaries, autopsy reports, radio transmission transcripts, etc.:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Good Things About Gemina

In some ways, I think this format is brilliant. It’s definitely not something I’ve seen before in the genres of space opera or YA. It makes for a much quicker read than you’d think the book’s 659 pages would necessitate. You don’t get a lot of heavy internal dialogue or emotion to slow down the plot. For an adrenaline junkie like me, this is great.

Some Not So Great Things About Gemina

On the other hand, though, missing those things almost completely means it’s much harder to connect with the characters. It makes the book seem like nothing more than a written version of the Alien movie, except with teenagers as the main characters. To a certain extent, every book, no matter how action-packed it is, needs to show the characters experiencing some strong emotion in order for the plot to move forward; they go on a rampage, for instance, if they get angry in reaction to something the antagonist(s) did. This book moves forward quite frequently on a revenge cycle, with Hannah (the main character) seeking to avenge (start: tiny little spoiler) the murder of the father at the beginning of the book (end spoiler).

And, as mentioned before, there is ALOT of violence. I shouldn’t have read as much as I did of it, but there’s something about reading it in a book that seems to make it a little less horrible than viewing it on a screen. But it’s still depictions of human-against-human violence, which I think there’s plenty of in the news these days. I don’t want to read it in my fiction too. And ALOT of swearing, although most of it is blacked out, as they’re in records that will ostensibly be reviewed in a court of law.

Who Would Like Gemina

If you liked the first book in the series, Illuminae, which I reviewed on Amazon, you’ll definitely like this one. Gemina’s story is connected to that of Illuminae‘s, so it’s kind of a sequel, but centered on different characters in a different setting. Also, if you liked These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner, you’d like Gemina; both have high-society-debutante-turned-toughie-girl main characters. K.B. Wager’s Behind the Throne also comes to mind, although the transition from debutante to toughie is reversed in that book. It’s also got a high-octane plot.

 

 

Book Review: Unearthed is Exceptional…But…

Sometimes, reading a really good book is like running my palm along the smooth side of a long sword…with my fingers curled around its very sharp blade. Being entranced by the flow of good prose or the seamlessness of a smart plot is like feeling the evenness of cold metal, but as a writer, I inevitably compare my skills to the writers of such good books and feel that I’ll never write that good, thus the cutting feeling. Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner are two such writers, and their soon-to-be-released book Unearthed is one such book. It was phenomenally good, which left me feeling both elated and a little disheartened. But you will love it.

 

What Unearthed is About

From Amazon: When Earth intercepts a message from a long-extinct alien race, it seems like the solution the planet has been waiting for. The Undying’s advanced technology has the potential to undo environmental damage and turn lives around, and Gaia, their former home planet, is a treasure trove waiting to be uncovered. For Jules Addison and his fellow scholars, the discovery of an alien culture offers unprecedented opportunity for study… as long as scavengers like Amelia Radcliffe don’t loot everything first. Mia and Jules’ different reasons for smuggling themselves onto Gaia put them immediately at odds, but after escaping a dangerous confrontation with other scavvers, they form a fragile alliance. In order to penetrate the Undying temple and reach the tech and information hidden within, the two must decode the ancient race’s secrets and survive their traps. But the more they learn about the Undying, the more their presence in the temple seems to be part of a grand design that could spell the end of the human race.

Why You’ll Like It

This book is, to some extent, reminiscent of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, with a young archaeologist having to find a very ancient, long-abandoned temple in the middle of a desert, interpret the glyphs etched therein, and survive the puzzles that the creators of the temple left behind to prevent anyone unworthy from reaching its center. There’s even an encounter with an “alien” race and a giant artifact. If Unearthed doesn’t get made into a movie–a better version of Temple of Doom–I will give up on any hope I ever had of Hollywood having good sense.

It’s phenomenal, for one, because of the premise. The Earth is dying, Amelia is on Gaia to scavenge something from one of the Undying’s temples to take back to Earth and sell so that she can get her 14-year-old sister out of bondage, since they’re parentless and Amelia had to become part of a scavenger group in order to provide the necessities of life for them. Jules is there because it was his father who originally decrypted the message sent from the Undying to Earth, then seemed to go crazy on live television saying that there was a hidden message that showed the Undying to be not as benevolent as they seemed. Jules wants to prove that his father wasn’t crazy by discovering proof of whatever the Undying’s true motive might be. Her goals are the opposite of his, but they have to unite against a common enemy to survive. In uniting, they eventually discover that they like each other…alot, but their goals can’t change.

Which leads me to the second reason I really liked this book: the main characters. The juxtaposition of Jules, a genius British teenage archaeologist, and Amelia, a street-smart American teenager, makes for many funny, “spicy” moments. There’s this paragraph, spoken by Jules, for example:

“The Undying certainly knew how to roll out the welcome mat,” I manage, meeting her gaze. She’s as rattled as me, and I know that endless fall will be flashing behind her eyelids as she tries to sleep tonight–just as it will behind mine. Assuming we survive until bedtime. “If this is the welcome mat, I’d hate to see their ‘do not disturb’,” she manages, with a weak laugh.

Or this sentence, spoken by Amelia:

A cliff like this has got to look like death on a tea sandwich to someone like him.

Because of the premise, there aren’t alot of other characters that come into play until just before halfway through the book, and even then, they aren’t very well-developed, but Amelia and Jules’ banter and bickering is plenty entertaining.

And the fact that the plot depends so much on the actions, feelings, and reactions of these two characters makes the fact that it is so awesome that much more amazing. What I mean by that is you wouldn’t think that it would allow for too many plot twists, but it does. In fact, there are several insane twists that I was totally shocked by, but in retrospect, realized that they had been well-built-up to, oftentimes quite surreptitiously. Well done, Amie and Meagan, well done.

I do have to say, in the spirit of a nutrition facts label, that there was a lot of swearing (primarily on Amelia’s part).  I lost track after 54 swear words, which happened probably around two-thirds of the way through the book. And I didn’t like the cover, but that’s just me.

But…

All this being said, keep in mind that the ending is a HUGE cliffhanger, one of the biggest I’ve ever read. I hate cliffhangers with a passion, mind you, because I think they’re unfair to the readers and manipulation on the part of the publishers, but I will be waiting on pins and needles for the sequel to this.

 

I asked for this book through NetGalley because I’d read Amie and Meagan’s Starbound Trilogy, which I reviewed here and which is also very good, and Amie’s Illuminae, a YA sci-fi horror-ish graphic novel (graphic in the sense that it’s told with visuals as well as text). I knew going on that they’re writing was going to be good, but I think they’ve outdone themselves this time. So, off I go back to further revise my second manuscript and study the craft so that I can one day publish a book as good as this.

If you go to AmieKaufman.com/preorder, you can preorder the book (it comes out in January) and be entered to win some really cool stuff, like your name in the sequel to the book. On her site, she does say that the book is being made into a movie so whew!