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Thursday, July 14, 2011

'Glow' Sky Chasers #1 by Amy Kathleen Ryan

Received from the Publisher

From the BLURB:

What if you were bound for a new world, about to pledge your life to someone you'd been promised to since birth, and one unexpected violent attack made survival-not love-the issue?

A ship heading for New Earth is halfway through its incredible journey across the galaxy.

On board, sixteen year olds Waverly and Kieran are part of the first generation born in space.

They are in love.

They believe their future is written in the stars.

They have never seen a stranger before...

... until the day they are wrenched apart and suddenly find themselves fighting for their

The Empyrean is one of two space ships headed for New Earth. Their mission is to repopulate the human race and begin a prosperous new planet. They have been travelling for years, and the first generation of children to be born in space are entering their late-teens, and are almost ready to start marrying and procreating.

Kieran and Waverley are just such a couple. Sixteen-year-old Kiernan is the ship’s ‘golden boy’ – the first baby born after years of infertility; he is the product of intense genetic research, and the first successful conception for the new space frontier.

Waverley knows that she and Kiernan will marry. It’s what’s expected of the oldest boy and girl aboard the Empyrean. And Waverley does love Kieran, and has ever since they were children. But when he starts talking marriage and babies, Waverley can’t help but feel decisions slipping away from her, and expectations weighing heavy on her shoulders.

And then the New Horizon looms.

The New Horizon is the sister-ship which embarked on the race to save humanity with the Empyrean all those years ago . . . but the Empyrean inhabitants have not seen sight of the New Horizon for light years, and are curious as to why their fellow voyagers are so eager to board . . .

What starts as friendly negotiations quickly deteriorates into a hostile take-over that sees New Horizon passengers forcibly board the Empyrean. But it’s not the ship they want – all they are interested in is the children – specifically, the girls.

‘Glow’ is the first book in a new sci-fi young adult series called ‘Sky Chasers’ by Amy Kathleen Ryan.

It may be a cliché, but space really is the final frontier – for the dystopian genre, at least.
The young adult genre has looked at dystopia from just about every angle – as a bloodthirsty media-driven sport in Suzanne Collins’s ‘The Hunger Games’, a World War III disaster in John Marsden’s ‘Tomorrow’ series and the more traditional censored/watched society of Ally Condie’s epic ‘Matched’. So it makes sense that dystopian authors are branching out and looking up; setting their sights on mankind’s next conquest – space.

Beth Revis kicked the year off with her sci-fi thriller foray ‘Across the Universe’. And now Amy Kathleen Ryan gives us a dystopian space opera extraordinaire which I am already predicting will be a major appearance on many 2011 favourite’s lists.

‘Glow’ is immense and thrilling. The human drama kicks-off immediately as we meet Kiernan and Waverley on the day that their world changes forever. It starts with a proposal of marriage – a sweet gesture that somewhat frightens Waverley and leaves her feeling boxed-in . . . to the point that she finds herself momentarily day-dreaming about an old childhood ‘almost’ crush on the temperamental pilot’s son, Seth Ardvale. We also learn of Kieran’s revered ‘golden boy’ status as the first successful conception aboard the Empyrean – a twist of fate that sees him being groomed for the captaincy.

All of this human drama and personal chaos is woven into the very first pages. Ryan divulges a lot of subtle information about on-board power struggles and personal. Looking back, Ryan does most of her character-building very concisely in these first introductory scenes – but her writing is so seamless and happily immersive that as a reader you never feel inundated.

Ryan needed to establish characters very quickly – because the book’s plot is set at full-throttle and never lets up. Very early on in the book the real action kicks in and separates all of the characters – so we read the alternating narratives from both Kiernan and Waverley as one is kidnapped and the other left behind to mutiny. And that’s where things get interesting and dystopic. . .

Ryan has packed so much into ‘Glow’ – simply by splitting the narrators apart and writing very different versions of dystopia for both of them. Really, ‘Glow’ is two dystopias in one. An impressive accomplishment and no mean feat.

Waverley’s journey takes her on board the New Horizon, along with all of her captured female friends – teenage girls and toddlers alike. The New Horizon has no captain, only a Pastor by the name of Anne Mather. Mather is a kindly-looking, grandmotherly sort with a sinister agenda. God is on her side and the Empyrean girls are merely vessels through which to accomplish her zealous promise to bring new life to the New Horizon.
Anne Mather is, without a doubt, one of the best villains I have ever read. She is cunning and cruel – disarmingly sweet, until someone crosses her. She is made even more terrifying for her religious fervour, which borders on maniacal.

Waverley’s time on the New Horizon is really an exploration of ideals – and the danger of blind faith. It is on this vessel that Ryan explores the dystopia of religion – not in a blameful or anti-religious way . . . she is merely observing what happens when human beings who have no hope find salvation in one person’s proclamations – and the lengths those people will go to uphold their beliefs.

“Oh, I guess because I’m jealous.”
“Jealous? Why?”
For a long time Amanda didn’t answer; she just stroked the canvas with charcoal. “I wanted to be one of the first mothers of New Earth. I thought it was my destiny.”
Waverley said nothing.
“But you’ll get to. You’ll be a progenitor of thousands, maybe millions of colonists on New Earth. You’ll be celebrated and remembered by an entire planet full of people. Like Eve in the Garden of Eden. Well, you and the rest of the girls.”
“I never thought about it that way,” Waverley said. A chill passed over the backs of her shoulders.
“When you think about it, it’s almost your duty, if you know what I mean. To be a mother.”


Meanwhile, onboard the Empyrean the boys are left behind. The girls have been taken – their friends, sisters, and girlfriends all gone. The adults are in serious danger, and it’s left to the young boys to fend for themselves and steady the ship. But power struggles quickly surface – Kieran’s control is questioned and he finds himself in a battle of sabotage against Seth Ardvale. It is onboard the male-run Empyrean that Ryan’s dystopia devolves into human power struggles – like a ‘Lord of the Flies’ outbreak, it is a look at what happens when greed and power corrupt the mind.

Both of Ryan’s dystopian explorations – on two different space ships – are disturbingly intriguing and psychological. Honestly, the boy’s Empyrean power-struggles could be likened to the infamous Stanford Prison experiment, while Waverley’s New Horizon experience is almost a struggle against Stockholm syndrome. Ryan has really distilled her dystopia into a thrillingly complex look at humanity. And I can’t wait for more ‘Sky Chasers’ books, as I think Ryan’s future explorations will be into the creation of a dystopian society . . . from the ground –up.

Of course these vast dystopian explorations are all well and good – but what made this book into a page-turner for me were the character’s individual struggles. Waverley is a brilliantly strong and steely character. Her hardships in ‘Glow’ are immeasurable, but her spirit is never easily broken and her fighting-spirit is tremendous. Likewise, Kieran started out as a cardboard cut-out hero (all dull and superior) but quickly developed into a complex and broken young man who was vastly more interesting for the challenges faced.

And because Ryan sets up Kieran and Waverley’s romance early on, it makes for a fantastic touchstone throughout the book. Both Waverley and Kiernan constantly come back to their love for one another – and their vow to keep searching for each other, and be reunited. But Ryan has also written an unfurling love triangle in the form of Seth Ardvale . . .

I must admit, early on I was more intrigued by Seth than Kieran. I always like an under-dog and unlikely love-interest . . . and there was just something about the golden boy, Kieran, versus Seth’s unpopular quick-temper that had me siding with Ardvale. For a while though, I thought that Ryan deliberately devolved Seth into a villain, rather than love interest. But Ryan’s novel is more complex than that, her characters more gray. The books ends on an intense cliff-hanger – hinting that her characters are more multi-faceted than I originally gave them credit for.

‘Glow’ is a slice of stunning dystopic space operatic brilliance. Amy Kathleen Ryan’s first ‘Sky Chasers’ book will have your blood pumping and fury surging as she writes two very different power struggles playing out onboard space ships destined for a new world order. ‘Glow’ is heart-wrenchingly brilliant, and it will most certainly be taking its rightful place on my 2011 favourite’s list.

5/5

4 comments:

  1. I just got Glow in the mail the other day. I was going to wait until closer to the release date to start it but now I just want to read now! Great review!

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  2. YAY! I picked up Glow at ALA but haven't had a chance to read it yet - I scrolled down and held my breath until I saw your rating :) Am going to read this one very, very soon.

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  3. I'm really hoping that YA sci-fi takes up. It's surprising how under-represented it is. Here's hoping AtU and Glow herald the beginning of a trend.

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  4. this looks amazing! I loved Across The Universe and this looks just as awesome! Great review hon!!!

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