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Tuesday, February 07, 2012

GLOW By Amy Kathleen Ryan/. Volume 1 Skychasers. Sydney: Pan Macmillan, 2011

 I received this in a bag of goodies at last year’s “Publisher’s Showcase” event at the State Library of Victoria. I read the other two, Divergent and Shatter Me,  very quickly and, to be honest, forgot about this one until recently. Once I started reading, I was sorry it had taken so long.

In the distant future, two generation ships, Empyrian and New Horizon, have left a dying Earth to start a colony on a distant planet, New Earth. Empyrian has a second generation, after both ships experienced fertility problems for reasons not explained in this volume – perhaps the next will tell us. New Horizon not only didn’t overcome its problems but the crew have been convinced that the women’s ovaries have been ruined by incorrect advice from Empyrian. This is important, because it forms the basis of most of the plot, as New Horizon, a light year ahead, slows down till Empyrian can catch up and then attacks in a raid which nets all the girls while leaving dead and dying adults on Empyrian and a group of boys from sixteen down to baby to cope as best they can.

Young lovers Kieran and Waverly are torn apart. Both of them have to become leaders, Waverly to try to escape and Kieran to keep the damaged Empyrian going.

The novel is a good, fast-paced action adventure which rarely slows down and then only so that Waverly or Kieran can work out what’s going on. It’s well-written in the old show-don’t-tell style – for example, we learn about the layout and food-producing gardens of Empyrian as Kieran rushes off to make it in time for an appointment with the captain; as he runs, we find out what he passes on the way. The author never stops the action to describe a character; they do get described, but not as a frozen picture or even the irritating, “She ran her hand through her long, golden hair”.

The characters are strong and intelligent. At one point, Waverly uses her knowledge of the physics she studied at school to work out that she and the other girls have been lied to.  There’s a nice twist at the end which girls reading it may not like, but I did. In any case, it’s a cliff-hanger, so twists are bound to occur.

There were just a few jarring notes. Given how carefully the author researched her physics, I wondered why there was no delay in conversations between ships – even when they were a light year apart. There’s a scene in which Waverly is shown a video of a discussion between the two ships’ leaders, with no delay whatever between them. Now, I know this happens all the time in Star Trek and Babylon 5, but that’s TV. At the very least, it might have been a good idea for the author to say something in an afterword.

It might also have been better to say that something dramatic happened to the frozen embryos being carried than to assume they weren’t carrying any. These are ships going to found a new world – even if something happened to the crew’s fertility along the way, one would think that no chances would be taken that the crew would die out along the way or get there and have no children to colonise. There would most likely be frozen embryos both of humans and animals. Maybe there were and these will be mentioned in the next book.

Still, it’s a good, exciting story that’s well worth a read and I’m looking forward to the next volume. I think this is the best of the three books I got in my goody bag late last year.


Lan said...

I've seen this one in the book stores and have been curious about it. Sounds like a good one amongst a lot of so so YA. I don't know anything about physics so I probably won't have the same issues as you did.

Sue Bursztynski said...

I'm not a physics expert, I just know a few things because I love space and spaceflight. But it's a good book, well worth a read.The positives far outnumber the negatives.