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Sunday, September 20, 2015

Vale of Stars by Sean O'Brien makes me want to read more Science Fiction!

Wow, okay, so its been a while and I'm pretty sure my reviewing skills are a might rusty. So please bear with me as I get my stuff together! Recently I was in a local bookstore and noticed a poster regarding a local author who would be signing books there. And even though I never, and I mean never read straight up "on another planet with the weird character names" science fiction, I said to myself, "Self, support the local guy." So I got myself a copy and started in.

As I was saying, I don't do  sci fi...Yeah, I read Dune back in the day, and Battlefield Earth and I really did try to read book two of that series. (It was AWFUL!)  I've read my minor share of Bradbury too. But it has been decades, so here's me, dipping my toe back into the reviewing pool with a genre heretofore unknown to me.

Sean O'Brien's Vale of Stars is an ambitious book, covering four generations of women colonizing a distant planet. The book opens aboard "Ship", where we meet our first protagonist, Jene Halfner, as Ship approaches Epsilon Eridani near the end of a hundred year voyage. Jene is a member of the fourth generation born aboard Ship as they make their voyage. The plot has some surprise turns that I really never saw coming. Perhaps because it's an unfamiliar genre? But perhaps because it's just quite imaginative.

The book incorporates many of the ills of our own society, and I'll admit, I kept waiting for it to become preachy or heavy handed as so many books that include the themes of  racism, segregation, religion and environmentalism tend to. Much to my happy surprise, the author manages to include these themes without beating us over the head with them. Not as a preachy point of view, but rather as hard issues faced by the characters.

Since I'm not a geneticist, doctor or any other type of scientist, I can't do any of the nitpicky stuff that I'm sure some readers will do. I found the scientific explanations believable, readable and downright enjoyable. Is any of it even remotely plausible? Heck if I know! But I enjoyed reading about it and imagining what might be!

There are large gaps of time between each part of the story, and I found that it often discombobulated my old brain for a few pages until I sort of caught up. However, I liked that the author doesn't spend time explaining the changes in societal mores, language, physical appearance and the like. He assumes we readers aren't dumb, and we'll figure it out as we go along. And, little miss Smarty-pants that I am, I did.

While on its face, the story is about the colonization of a distant world, this is much more the story of four strong women, faced with difficult choices, and the ramifications of their decisions. It's about people constructing and finding their way within brand new societies; all of whom never chose to be there in the first place.

All in all, I was pleasantly surprised. I didn't expect to like the book, and I found myself staying up way too late during a very busy week to read. And I found myself thinking about it for quite a few days after. In fact, I really only found one negative thing, and it's an aforementioned nitpicky thing....I read an electronic version, and the last 25% of the book had some typos that proofreading should have caught. And if that is the worst thing I can say about a book then it deserves at the very least an enthusiastic thumbs up from me!

Read Vale of Stars. I don't think you'll be disappointed!

My rating: