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Book Review: These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

What if a science fiction book took place in space? That would be awesome, right?  A lot of science fiction lately takes place in the future, but not often in space.  I miss space.  So today I bring you – SPACE! And space ships! And planets!

He is on board a spaceship called The Icarus.  Traver Martin is young, and from a decidedly wrong economic class, but he is being decorated a war hero.  Which is how he finds himself saving Lilac LaRoux, the richest man in the universe’s daughter, when something rips The Icarus out of hyperspace and causes it to crash on an unknown planet.  It is obvious that the planet was in the process of being terraformed, but something has happened and it now seems abandoned.  Except for the voices that they sometimes hear.  Should they stay put and wait (hope) for a rescue team? Or do they need to find shelter before someone – or is it something – finds them?

“It’s a planet.  That glow is some planet’s atmosphere reflecting a star’s light, and its gravity is dragging the pod down, interfering with its guidance system.  We’re landing, and that’s if we making it down in one piece.  We’re landing if we’re lucky.” – page 47

These Broken Stars is a really interesting book.  It has a great Star Trek The Next Generation feel to it, with a little thriller/horror movie vibe thrown in occasionally.  There are class struggles and a little Romeo and Juliet romance.  And it is a tense, sparse, locked room mystery: for most of the book you are literally involved with only two characters.  Three if you count the planet, which you should, because it is new and different and interesting.

This is actually a pretty good book.  My only issue with it is that it says it is the first book in a trilogy and I thought to myself, that can’t be right because this story is wrapped up in the end.  So I Tweeted about it online and the authors answered.  Apparently, the other books will include the same basic world but not necessarily the same characters.  But, this can also be read as a stand alone which is HUGE in my world.  We need more stand alones.  But there are definitely also some elements that could further be explored, including the mystery of what happened to the planet, what the military’s involvement may have been, etc.

“Did you hear anything while you were out there?” I ask, squinting into the afternoon light and trying as hard as as I can to keep my shivering to a minimum.

“Wind,” he replies, punctuated by a rustle as he drops his armful. “The grass, the occasional scurrying critter. There won’t be anything larger out here, there’s nothing to feed it.”

“I heard a man.” – page 120

I think the other interesting thing that the authors did to help add tension to the story was to frame it as an investigation.  In between the chapters it is clear that our two main characters are being interrogated about what happened on the planet.  This device helps introduce some tension in the story with the foreshadowing and some of the questions that are planted.

The chapters are told in alternating voices, so we hear both sides of the story.  Lilac begins as a spoiled, privileged rich girl and it is interesting to see her thrown in this survival environment and how it slowly changes her.  Also, Lilac as a character has some surprising nuances and I actually like what they did with her.  It is also interesting to see Tarver’s patience and command challenged.  There are two things happening here: survival and emotion, and I think the book provides a good balance of the two.

Bonus points because, as I have mentioned, this is real honest to goodness classic science fiction feeling.  It made me do a happy dance.  These Broken Stars touches on themes of corporate and military power and corruption, alien species and the way we respond and treat them, class issues, and more.  There is a romance here, but it is slowly build and not instalove so more bonus points.  3.5 out of 5 stars.  Definitely recommended.

These Broken Stars by Annie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner will be released in November of 2013 from Hyperion.  ISBN: 978-1-4231-7102-7.

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