Starglass by Phoebe North

Starglass - Phoebe North

I'm conflicted about this book, or rather how I think about it. On the one hand it does some things really, really well; others it does satisfactorily, but some things frustrated the hell out of me. I'm going to try and talk about all of these things.

The stuff it does really, really well: Diversity. First of all, this is a Jewish spaceship. Peopled solely by Jewish people. It's so nice to read about some religion other than Christianity, honestly. I loved that. Then there's the fact that the book opens with a letter from a lesbian woman to her daughter. I nearly did a fist-pump at that. The fact that gay is not shuffled to the back like it's something that never happens. I really appreciated the fact that the author used this science fiction setting to explore the issues of homophobia and gay rights. The right of choice is a strong theme throughout the book.

Other things worked for me, but didn't raise that 'hell-yes' feeling in me. Like how Terra reacted in certain situations. How she felt about her situation, and her role in the greater scheme of things. The way the community developed and changed over the 500 years they were traveling to their destination was eminently believable. The writing was straight-forward and easy to read through. This was a quick read - I'd fly through 20-30 pages before I even realized I had. I was glad that romance wasn't a focus, really glad actually, though I think it probably will be in the next book.

But, yeah, there's always a 'but'...But, there were things that left me shaking my head in frustration. I'm a character reader. I love characters, they are what makes me invest in the story first and foremost. Second is the world. Preferably I'd have both of these in my books. Great characters that feel real in a world that fascinates and intrigues. Unfortunately Starglass fell down for me in both categories. The only character that is really developed in this book is Terra. And she's so damn passive that I could never really love her. She accepts whatever she's told, by whomever deigns to tell it to her, and just goes along with it. Eventually she starts to question, but it was a little too late for me. Though she spends a good deal of the book working towards personal agency, time and time again she simply falls into patterns that leave her following someone else's plans. However, this is the first book. I will say that by the end I had hope that maybe, just maybe, Terra would show the growth I might have glimpsed in her last act in Starglass.

I mentioned that I like intricate worlds, and I kind of expect them when you're on a spaceship that left Earth 500 years ago. This could have taken place in a walled community cut off from the rest of the world. There was little to no advancement in technology - except for the fact that kids are grown in hatcheries instead of born now - computers are pretty much a non-entity; jobs are shopkeepers, bell-ringers; guards; bakers; botanists, etc. Then there's the fact that they set sail, as it were, for a planet that they know NOTHING about. Five hundred years flying through space and you don't even know if this planet you're heading towards has air we can breathe, water to drink, or if it's at all habitable. It strained credulity for me. I had a hard time swallowing the lack of advancement in a people that could build a spaceship like this.

I didn't even really get to get a good feel for the fact that we're in space until near the very end - when we finally reach our destination.

Conflicted. Still. I was hoping that writing my review would give me a better idea where to rate this.

I guess I'm ending at 3 Stars.