Saturday 28 December 2013

These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner

These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner is Kaufman's début and the first book I've read by either author. I have to admit, the pretty cover and the fact that Kaufman is Australian swayed me to give this one a shot, since the blurb did not sound all that promising to me (or, more accurately, sounded like it could be all romance and not much else). But happily, that was not the case. Blurb:
It's a night like any other on board the Icarus. Then, catastrophe strikes: the massive luxury spaceliner is yanked out of hyperspace and plummets to the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive. And they seem to be alone.

Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a young war hero who learned long ago that girls like Lilac are more trouble than they're worth. But with only each other to rely on, Lilac and Tarver must work together, making a tortuous journey across the eerie, deserted terrain to seek help.

Then, against all odds, Lilac and Tarver find a strange blessing in the tragedy that has thrown them into each other's arms. Without the hope of a future together in their own world, they begin to wonder - would they be better off staying in this place forever?
In some ways These Broken Stars reminded me of the Andre Norton book I read earlier this year, Storm Over Warlock. Not stylistically at all, but thematically. Both books are about survival on a mostly empty planet with a "not quite what it seems" vibe. The biggest difference is the modern style of These Broken Stars, which I find considerably more readable than most of ye olde SF. And, honestly, These Broken Stars made more sense.

Although the romantic plot line is prominent, it doesn't really start until maybe half-way through (or a bit more). In the immediate aftermath of crashing on a mysterious planet, both Lilac and Tarver are more concerned with survival and rescue than anything else. And although Tarver is the one with military survival training, Lilac is very knowledgeable about computers, electronics and physics. Their different skill sets mean that both of them save the other a few times throughout the story, which I absolutely loved. Lilac was definitely not a damsel in distress, which was pleasing (and that really is one of my least favourite character archetypes ever).

Although I probably wouldn't go so far as to call the book hard science fiction — since most of it was about on-planet survival and not tech or science — what science was present was accurate or plausible. There were no scientific faux pas to jolt me out of the story, which was a pleasant change, as far as far-future YA SF goes. In fact, the only thing that made me thing "hmm, that's a bit odd" was that backstory about colonies rebelling a lot. We don't really have enough information (and perhaps its forthcoming in later books), but from what we were told, I was thinking that maybe they should rethink their colonisation strategies. This was very much a minor background thing, though.

In terms of plot, we know upfront that rescue will come because the chapters are interspersed with snippets of Tarver being debriefed back in civilisation. Since romance is also somewhat inevitable, you'd think there wouldn't be many surprises left, mysterious nature of the planet notwithstanding. But, quite refreshingly, there was one significant event I didn't see coming, which is all I'll say because spoilers. In short, this is not a "by-the-numbers" YA read. It's thoughtful and genuine and I can't wait to read more. If this book is an example of the future of science fiction, bring it on.

This was an engaging and enjoyable read. The authors combine plausible science with a balanced romantic storyline and a plot which kept me keenly turning pages. I highly recommend These Broken Stars to fans of YA and science fiction, or one or the other. It wouldn't make a terrible introduction to YA for a SF fan and would be an excellent introduction to SF for a YA fan, particularly one who hasn't read much SF (outside of the dystopia subgenre). I am looking forward to getting my hands on the next book, This Shattered World, when it comes out.

4.5 / 5 stars

First published: December 2013, Disney-Hyperion (US) / Allen & Unwin (Aus)
Series: The Starbound Trilogy, book 1
Format read: eARC and paperback (I really was swapping between them)
Source: publisher via NetGalley and purchased from Dymocks (signed by both authors!), respectively
Challenges: Australian Women Writers Challenge, Aussie Science Fiction Reading Challenge

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