From a Distant Star— quick review and commentary

From a Distant StarThere are many themes in science fiction, and the one about an alien who is trapped on earth entering a host body isn’t exactly a new plot line. However, in this young adult novel, Karen McQuestion taps into the “kids dealing with big stuff” storyline that seems to be popular right now. (Think “Stranger Things” on Netflix or even Stephen King’s, IT! on the big screen.) Anyway, I didn’t find it difficult at all to get into this book and stay with it until the end. The main characters, Emma and her cancer stricken boyfriend Lucas, are believable, engaging, and their exploits are entertaining. Emma is particularly well drawn, and she is the point of view character for most of the novel.

I’m not a big fan of young adult fiction, but I genuinely believe that the most creative stories these days are found in that genre. Publishers, large and small, are not prone to take any chances with fiction intended for adult audiences, but they are more open to new authors and new ideas in YA fiction. This has been true for quite a while, and this trend plays out on the big screen. The Harry Potter novels were quite successfully adapted to film, as were the Hunger Games novels. The Divergent Series is another YA science fiction series that made it to the big screen. Even Twilight and its sequels begat movies.

Probably From a Distant Star won’t be the basis for a Hollywood block buster, but it would make a dandy film for the folks over at the SyFy channel. In the mean time, readers can find it in various formats, from $4.49 for the Kindle ebook to $10.95 in hard cover.

Cinder— a review

Young adult fiction is the best place to look for new ideas, or old ones wearing new garb. Marissa Meyer’s Cinder is the latter, as it is a science fiction version of Cinderella. The reviews were fabulous, so I purchased the eBook version, and promptly pushed it aside. Part of me wants to dislike YA, since I skipped into the adult section at the local library while I was in the seventh grade. Instead of beginning Cinder, I read a nifty self-help book called the $10 Root Cellar: And Other Low-Cost Methods of Growing, Storing, and Using Root Vegetables (Modern Simplicity). Yeah, I know, I can’t quite believe I read that one either. But, hubby and son have been watching a bunch of YouTube vids on how to survive a time WOROL (without rule of law) and/or zombie attacks. And, I don’t know about everyone else, but if I am staying cooped up, I want something to eat!

Okay, okay, I digress. So, having learned all about burying an old fridge to store root veggies in (for that zombie apocalypse), I pulled up Cinder on my iPad. And, almost immediately, I was hooked. The character is amazing; Meyer has so skillfully drawn her, that I can just see her stuffing her grimy gloves in a back pocket. And, yes, there should be little suspense. How many times did my kids watch the Disney version of Cinderella? Not to mention my reading the Golden Books version to my daughter. She used to call the stepsisters, “the uglies.” How cute, right? So, I know the plot.

But, while Meyer’s tale is sorta/kinda true to the traditional tale, there is sufficient deviation to give the reader some suspense. And, the narrative is pretty good, but the characters just about jump off the pages. Especially Cinder, who is a cyborg with a mean stepmom, two flighty “uglies” A/K/A stepsisters, and an android or two for good measure. The queen of Luna is perhaps the best villainess I have read about this year. Maybe this decade.

Others have noted that the Oriental overtones seem to be grafted onto the story, and that is a valid criticism. But, I am not sure that the storyline would have worked at all if the characters had been more realistically Oriental. This yarn is the first in a series, and I am looking forward to revisiting Marissa Meyer’s retelling of traditional stories.

So, even if you don’t get into re-tellings of fairy tales, if you like gritty science fiction, you might just like this story. And, if you do like re-tellings, this one is very good.

Cadets, a space opera entry for young adults

Cadets CoverWhile I prefer more sophisticated military science fiction, readers of all ages should enjoy Cadets, which is an entertaining read. The story follows a group of cadets, who are forced into growing up quickly when a menace from outside the solar system wipes out virtually all of the Earth’s defense force. The characters are not as complex as those readers would find in a space opera by David Weber or Elizabeth Moon, but for the intended audience, this yarn is quite good. The military strategy won’t impress adult readers, either. Still, it is suspenseful, with a bit of Independence Day style peril. A good read, with no worries for the parents.