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The planet Genesis has been at the heart of a war with Earth for more than thirty years. The only lives which have been lost are those from Genesis, as Earth only sends waves of androids in its attempt to gain access to Genesis’s natural resources having squandered their own. In desperation, the military of Genesis plan to engage in the Masada run, one suicidal attack of the local gate, buying them time to rearm and recover for the next inevitable attack. On a dry run for the attack Noemi Vidal’s flight comes under an unexpected actual attack. During the battle, she is forced to board a seemingly derelict Earth ship where she is attacked by Abel, a uniquely sophisticated android…
Defy the Stars (2017. 425 pages) is a young adult science fiction novel by Claudia Gray. She has previously authored several YA paranormal series (Evernight, Spellcaster, Firebird) as well as two Star Wars novels (Star Wars: Lost Stars and Star Wars: Bloodline).
The first couple chapters of the novel did not fill me with confidence, especially the description of a space battle where she faces off a mech’s weapons that “slash through the air towards Noemi”, well the reason why ‘In space no one can hear you scream’ is that there is no air. It may seem picky but if you’re going to write convincing science fiction its these small errors which will jump out of the page for your audience. Still we plod forward…
And what we find is a rather splendid science fiction novel which contains a rich vein of golden age science fiction writing with its focus on relationships, a general positive view of technology and a sense of wonder about both space and the myriad ways humans could exist in the universe. It’s the sort of book which Campbell would have been happy to have published.
Science fiction aimed at a younger audience is not a new concept, indeed Heinlein, Asimov and, more recently, Orson Scott Card have shown that there is an audience for literature which is generally positive in its outlook.
It’s not a denigration to say that this novel is genuine space opera. We follow Noemi and Abel as they go on a quest through the planets upon which humans are sometimes desperately clinging to a precarious existence through world obscenely wealthy, regardless of the overall suffering of humanity.
Apart from the very odd point, which may disappear in the final book, I was sent a proof copy, Gray has written a very enjoyable novel which delves into what it means to be human and what we as a species own each other.
The book is told from the perspective of both Abel and Noemi which allows us to be offered differing perspective to their strange accommodation. Thankfully Gray avoids the too well worn trope of the Pinocchio android wanting to become a real human boy, rather Abel’s transformation is both organic and believable. Neomi is a feisty firebrand, who thinks of nothing of throwing her life away for her people, their joint exposer to the realities of humanity amongst the stars fundamentally changes them both.
The proof copy, whilst not finished, did have a place holder for a half title, which is usually the preserve of a series of books. In an odd way, I was hoping that this is the only book in this series, if not necessarily in this universe, as the ending was perfect and like a little gem should just be treasured and left as it is.