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Monday, September 2, 2013

Starglass (Starglass #1) by Phoebe North

Terra has never known anything but life aboard the Asherah, a city-within-a-spaceship that left Earth five hundred years ago in search of refuge. At sixteen, working a job that doesn't interest her, and living with a grieving father who only notices her when he's yelling, Terra is sure that there has to be more to life than what she's got.

But when she inadvertently witnesses the captain's guard murdering an innocent man, Terra is suddenly thrust into the dark world beneath her ship's idyllic surface. As she's drawn into a secret rebellion determined to restore power to the people, Terra discovers that her choices may determine life or death for the people she cares most about. With mere months to go before landing on the long-promised planet, Terra has to make the decision of a lifetime--one that will determine the fate of her people.

Released: July 23rd 2013         Pages: 448
Publisher: Simon & Schuster  Source: Goodreads First Reads giveaway

First Look: ***** I didn't have any strong thoughts one way or the other, at first sight.  The cover is nice enough, but forgettable.  The pitch just made me glance over to my bookshelf at my copy of Glow.  Still, since I won a free copy, I figured, why not? 

Setting: ***** 
Basically, it was a town.  Except...on a spaceship.  If we weren't reminded every so often of its spaceship-ness, it would be easy for a reader to forget it.  The town itself runs like any other town, except that its government is rather overbearing.  But, hey, what's new?  I would've liked to see more differentiation between Earth and the ship.  As in, I wanted to see reasons why this setting was different than any Earth setting.  How being on a spaceship affected the people, the town, the culture.  I never got as much of that as I wanted.

Characters: ***** 
Well, for starters, we have a main character named Terra.  What does she do?  She's a botanist.  This, admittedly, had me rolling my eyes.  While she was a decent-ish character, Terra acted consistently young for her age.  Yes, she's worried about getting married and all--why do we have sixteen-year-olds getting married anyway?  The spaceship isn't having a problem with decreasing life expectancies or loss of fertility, as far as I know, so why force people to get married so young?  Anyway, Terra was concerned about who she would marry, but instead of trying to determine whether or not she could spend her entire life with Koen, she just moped because Koen wouldn't kiss her.  If I was in that situation, I'd worry more about who I could get along with and even love rather than who would kiss me.  Especially if the babies are all made in a lab anyway.

(spoilers in the next two paragraphs)  I didn't agree with all of the choices Terra made.  While many book characters do things I wouldn't have done, there's a line between what I can accept and what I can't.  Characters do things that I wouldn't have, yes, but often I can see the justification, and at least partially sympathize with it, and it doesn't detract from my opinion of the character.  And then some characters go and make choices that I don't agree with and just plain made me dislike them.  For example, the murder Terra commits at the end.  Her justification was poor, and it made me dislike her.  Murdering people just isn't okay, no matter if the guy killed your mother or not.

And then I flat-out hated Koen.  At first he seemed nice enough, but then it turned sour.  I think he was a jerk for stringing Terra along like he did.  He gave Terra hope that she could have a happy marriage with a man who truly loved her.  He let her think that he actually did love her.  And then, when she found out that he loved whatever-that-guy's-name-was, he expected her to be okay with it.  To say, "Alright, I know you'll never truly love me, but I'll accept a marriage to you and be totally fine with you making out with some guy whenever you want."  No, no, no!  That is not a healthy relationship.  Expecting her to go along with that was cruel and unfair.  That revelation made me feel like this:
Reasons Jane Foster Is Epic #999: She punched Loki in the face, and even Loki appreciated it.  Even Sif looks a little intimidated.  (Keep watching Thor's head...this entertains me too much.)

 Plot: *****
  Meh.  Parts of the plot fit well and made total sense to me.  For example, conflicts with Koen, her father, about her job,  and so on. It worked for me. And then there was the whole rebellion thing, which didn't work for me.  It just didn't feel natural. I understand that they don't have all the freedoms they want on the ship, but we still never saw the ship's government actually mistreat anyone. For me, there was never enough justification for an actual rebellion. To have a rebellion, you have to show readers a reason why this government needs to end/change.

Also, why do we have people running around and stabbing each other with knives?  We're on a spaceship.  Shouldn't they at least have, I don't know, laser guns or something?  Something that goes "Pew pew pew!"?  And if the government is so tight about regulations that teenagers have to find a spouse within a year or the government will pick one for you, why do they allow people to run around with dangerous weapons?  (At least one person is known for carrying a blade in plain sight on a regular basis.)  

Uniqueness: ***** 
The idea of a group of people living on a crowded spaceship, heading toward a new home planet, where not all is as it seems is a trend that is going strong right now.  While Starglass had its own variations (the Jewish culture, etc.), I would've liked to see a little more originality.

Writing: *****  Very early on, I was greeted with one of these beauties: "I let out a breath I hadn't even realized I'd been holding."
Me: Here we go again....
Can we stop using this cliché sentence?  It appeared at least twice in this book.  In real life, people don't do this.  Incidentally, four days after reading this sentence, I posted an entire blog post about sentences like this that people need to stop writing.

The only other major thing that stood out to me was that the first description of the overall design and structure of the ship was in the last chapter or so.  Maybe I missed something at the beginning, but I don't think so.  This is the kind of thing authors should use early in the novel, to establish the setting.  Not at the end.  (If there's a description in the beginning that I missed or forgot about, feel free to call me out.)

 Likes: I could connect to Terra's passion for art.  I'm not an artist myself, if you define artist as a person who makes visual art, but as a writer I know about the desire to create.

Not-so-great: Why is this book called Starglass?  I don't recall that word ever being used in the novel.

Also, why did Terra keep talking about feeling awkward in her changing body and outgrowing clothes?  At the start of the novel, she was fifteen.  Aren't most girls done growing by the time they're fifteen?  Or was I just a very early bloomer?

 Overall: Starglass was an okay book.  I know I mostly wrote about what I didn't like, but none of it was enough to bring this book below three stars, either.  The plot was a bit unoriginal, with a rebellion that didn't quite seem necessary to me.  The writing used some irritating clichés.  Terra was an okay character, though she made decisions that didn't sit well with me.  A few other scattered things made me roll my eyes.  I couldn't stand Koen.  I probably won't seek out the sequel for this, when it comes out. 
Similar Books:  It has heavy similarities with Glow and Across the Universe--all three take place on a spaceship headed for a new planet, with rebellions and spacey romance and female main characters.  It also reminds me of  Inside Out, which also features a spacey rebellion featuring a female main character.
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