Friday, August 2, 2013

Review: Starglass

By Phoebe North
Published 2013 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Terra has lived her life aboard the Asherah, a spaceship that left Earth many generations ago and is moving ever closer to Zehava, the planet its people have pinned their hopes on. But things are about to change for Terra. She receives her work assignment and witnesses something secret and horrific. Before long, she finds herself in the middle of a rebellious group who have big plans for her.

Something else I've mentioned before is that I'm not crazy about things that take place in space. As a result, I don't read a lot of typical science fiction. However, I've read a few books in recent years that I really enjoyed that just happened to take place in space (Amy Kathleen Ryan's Glow is perhaps the best example for me), so I've slowly been reading more and more space books in the hopes of finding more gems. Unfortunately, for me, Starglass is not one of them.

It sounded like it had a lot of the same elements that I enjoyed in Glow - a teen protagonist living aboard a spaceship that is essentially its own world (I'm talking crops and livestock and the whole shebang). The people on the ship are the newest generation, descended from the ship's first inhabitants. And not everyone is pleased with the current regime. Additionally, they are about to arrive at their destination, making emotions run at an all-time high. These are all the things I loved about Ryan's book and pretty much they are all equally present here in North's book. North's version just does not work as well for me.

What I like about North's book: the worldbuilding, particularly the Jewishness of the ship and its inhabitants. Religion doesn't usually feature in the books I read, and especially not in the speculative fiction I read. I found it a pleasant surprise here. It works well for this ship and these characters and this story, and adds an extra dimension that I found really interesting.

Unfortunately, this is about the only thing about North's book that I particularly enjoyed. This is a long book - over 400 pages - and it sure felt that long. This is going to sound harsh, but I really feel like this book was a waste of my time. Not a whole lot happens. It's fine to not have a plot-driven story - I like character studies as much as the next guy. But this book just doesn't work. There is something pervasively irritating about Terra - she is not the kind of character I want to read 400 pages about. Additionally, the big talk about rebellion and Terra getting mixed up in it? It feels mostly like baloney. Sure, there is a group of citizens anxious for rebellion. And yes, Terra does get involved with them. But it's not nearly as exciting as all that. Mostly, this is 400 pages of Terra feeling anxious about everything in her life and being very indecisive. The book ends with the ship's arrival on Zehava, which, of course, turns out far differently than anticipated. It's pretty clear that there is going to be a sequel but, after spending 400+ lackluster pages here, I don't think I'll be reading it.

Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via Edelweiss.

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