Glow is the first book of the new Sky Chasers series by Amy Kathleen Ryan. It's young adult science fiction set in outer space, reminding me a bit of my beloved Exiles trilogy by Ben Bova (which I may have to re-read now). Glow, however, devotes considerably more attention to characterization and relationships than one usually finds in old-school science fiction. It is also quite compelling. I read Glow in a single day, unable to put it down.
The story is told from the alternating viewpoints of Kieran and Waverly, two teens on board the spaceship Empyrean. Waverly and Kieran were both born on the Empyrean, the very first of the first generation of kids born on the long journey to New Earth (still 40+ years away). They are contemplating marriage, aware of their responsibility to procreate and support the survival of the human race. However, their personal concerns fall by the wayside when tragedy strikes. Their ship is brutally attacked by one-time sister ship the New Horizon, and all of the girls, including Waverly, are kidnapped. The remainder of the book follows the tribulations of Waverly and Kieran on their separate spaceships, uncertain if they'll ever be together again.
Glow's dark, action-filled plot will appeal to the current generation of dystopia fans. Glow is also straight-up science fiction, with airlocks and shuttles and crops grown on board the ships. The premise of coping with battles from aboard a spaceship, with nowhere to escape to if something goes wrong, is inherently suspenseful. Like this:
"A sudden, deafening wind ripped through Kieran's ears. He tried to stay on his feet, but he felt the soles of his shoes sliding along the floor. He was being sucked toward what looked like an enormous hole in the side of the ship.
No. It wasn't a hole.
The air lock doors were opening to the emptiness of the nebula." (Page 33, ARC)
But what really sets Glow apart is Ryan's attention to character and interpersonal dynamics. The characters, particularly Kieran, come across very differently depending on who is looking at them. I wouldn't quite go so far as to say that anyone is an unreliable narrator, but people's personalities are not black and white. Motives are murky, and the adults, especially, are quite tricky. Hunger Games fans will feel right at home.
Recommended for high school and adult readers, boys and girls, particularly people who enjoy dystopias, science fiction stories set in space, and/or books in which the adults are not to be trusted. There's a bit of a Lord of the Flies feel to Kieran's experience, and echoes of what-if reproductive stories to Waverly's (The Declaration by Gemma Malley, some of Orson Scott Card's books, etc.).
Glow isn't a book that you'll linger over, flagging beautiful turns of phrase with sticky notes. It is, however, a book that will make you stop and shake your head in surprise. It's a book that will keep you turning the pages well after you should already be asleep, and have you eagerly awaiting the next installment of the Sky Chasers series. I know I am.
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin (@StMartinsPress). See also the Glow Facebook Page
Publication Date: September 13, 2011
Source of Book: Advanced review copy from the publisher
© 2011 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.