Science fiction is defined as: fiction based on imagined future scientific or technological advances and major social or environmental changes, frequently portraying space or time travel and life on other planets.
If you read “adult sci-fi” this definition makes perfect sense. If YA sci-fi is more your thing…you might be a little confused.
A few years ago I swore off Science-Fiction in the YA genre. It’s not that I don’t enjoy YA. (Duh, have you met me?) It’s just that after reading a few I found myself feeling a little let down. (Say What?) Here is the deal…YA is all about coming of age. Plots are devised around this one building block. THIS is what makes the genre so appealing for so many readers. The relationships, the choices, the ability to mature past themselves into something significantly more substantial. Dystopian lit in the same age bracket has learned how to balance the expectations of the genre (government subterfuge..etc.) and still focus on human interaction (guy meets girl, they smooch, so on and so on.) Science fiction (in YA) however hasn’t.
When I read sci-fi I want to be carried away (much like the characters depicted on the cover of this novel.) I want to discover new worlds. Learn about unfathomable technology and the way it has helped or hindered our existence. I WANT to have to look up a word here and there because I haven’t the foggiest idea what the author is talking about. I don’t want to read a science textbook, but I also don’t want to spend the entire time wondering where the science is.
The overwhelming lack of balance turned me off, until 2011 when I was introduced to Beth Revis’ “Across The Universe” series in which romance, nerdology and the overall clashing of two rebellious states (love and science) finally convinced me the genre might be making forward movement.
So when I first happened upon the synopsis for Kaufman and Spooner’s “These Broken Stars” I decided to give it a chance. (You gotta leap from the cliff every once and a while right?) My hopes, if I’m being honest, where not high (despite the outpouring of positive reviews.) And, a few pages in…I was afraid that my suspensions were going to be confirmed. (Aka: the opening of the novel revolved around a tenuous relationship which just happened to take place on a spaceship.) But then something happened…and what had once been a romance novel with hints of geeky undertones, suddenly morphed into exactly what I had been looking for all along. A beautiful combination of two very different ideas.
But I’m getting a little ahead of myself, let’s go back and talk a little about the book (and why exactly it ALMOST earned a five star rating.)
“These Broken Stars” is more than just sci-fi in a bottle. As a matter of fact, it’s almost as much “survival novel” as alternate planets and hyperspace. To put it plainly, Lilac and Tarver’s ship has crash landed. More specifically, Lilac and Tarver’s ship has crash landed on a planet that isn’t exactly playing by the rules. The trees aren’t quite right, the animals are bigger than they should be, and Lilac may or may not be seeing dead people. Despite the conditions however, one thing remains…they need to survive and they aren’t going to do it where they landed. So they set off to find the rest of the wreckage. Pushing each-other with well placed insults and the occasional dirty look.
The journey itself is not that original. Stories about getting from point A to point B are a dime a dozen. What makes this story original is the characters and how they fuel each-other. Surrounded by the unknown and unforeseeable Lilac (a spoiled rich girl who has more gumption than she lets on) and Tarver (a decorated soldier with a hidden heart of glass) test limits. Not just physically, but emotionally. And as the bond between them slowly morphs from one of petulance to respect, the challenges they face become more heart-wrenching.
The challenges? Well, this is where things get interesting. On a planet where anything can happen, authors Kaufman and Spooner make sure it does. Constructing a brilliant world, where buildings appear out of thin air and light has a way of speaking volumes. They not only created a concept, but they delivered on it ten fold. I felt heat as Lilac and Tarver tromped through their imagined forest. I shivered at the mouth of snow caked caves. Every emotion was explained. Every element was accounted for. Every quirk manufactured spectacularly.
Then why not five stars? Because I wanted more. I wanted more of Tarver’s interrogation (that proceed each chapter.) I wanted to see the look on Mr. LaRoux’s face as his daughter called his bluff. I wanted…a few more chapters.
That said, the ending was perfect. This IS the first book in a series, but there was no cliffhanger. No, “to be continued.” No, “ha ha got ya!” Instead…it built a world for you to explore with NEW characters, in “This Shattered World” (which comes out later this year.)
So what are my thoughts about YA Science Fiction now? Let’s just say this was a fantastic start to what I hope is a new trend. I’ll definitely be adding a few more to my TBR. As you should do with “These Broken Star.”
Get it, Live it, Love it…Pass it on.