I am still trying to sort out my feelings on this book.
I LOVE Amie Kaufman’s Illuminae, as you might recall. This led me to seek out more of her books, and I found These Broken Stars. The first book in a trilogy, These Broken Stars is challenging to describe. Part Titanic, part survival story, part mystery, and… mostly romance? That seems to cover it. An interesting story concept, but it never really came together fully for me. Shame.
Major Tarver Merendsen does not belong on the starliner Icarus. And, honestly, he’s only there because it’s good press. After all, he is an 18-year-old comes-from-nothing war hero. Unfortunately, a girl catches his eye. And even more unfortunately, this girl happens to be 16-year-old Lilac LaRoux, socialite, and daughter of the richest man in the Galaxy (who happens to have a frighteningly public reputation as an overbearing protective father).
But who names a starship the Icarus? What kind of man possesses that much hubris, that he dares it to fall?
These star-crossed lovers lives begin to intertwine upon the many decks of the Icarus, but, as is to be expected, the fate of such a named ship is sealed. When a catastrophic accident occurs and pulls the ship violently out of space, Tarver and Lilac are the only two survivors on an unknown planet. The planet has obviously been terraformed, but after spending billions of dollars and dozens of years making the planet suitable for life, it was obviously abandoned. Confused, and with no other choice, the two band together and make the trek across the planet to the wreck of the Icarus, with the hope that there they will be rescued.
The survival story begins exactly as you would imagine it. Lilac isn’t used to anything other than a simulated natural environment. She’s wearing a ball gown and stilettos. And Tarver, our war hero, takes command. The two have to work together physically and mentally. Lilac is scared but brave and is masking her insecurities through anger and self-righteousness. Tarver is still upset about how Lilac humiliated him on the ship and frustrated that he is still attracted to her. So, not only are our characters traversing forest, prairie, and snow covered mountains but they are also traversing the teenaged hormone wasteland.
For a moment the image before us is frozen: our world, our lives, reduced to a handful of broken stars half lost in uncharted space. Then it’s gone, the view swallowed by the hyperspace winds streaming past, blue-green auroras wiping the after-images away.
Until all that’s left is us.
My biggest problem with this book was the lack of world building. There is nothing about Lilac or Tarver’s immediate past (only the critical things needed for them to realize they are soulmates), about their histories, about this planet, or about the technology they are using. Everything is very generic and moderately described. There is no culture. No explanation about class-segregation. Nothing about why planets are terraformed or why it’s weird this one is abandoned. It was a survival novel with some sci-fi and mystery thrown in for pizzazz. And that bored me.
This book was co-authored by two women in their late 20s-early 30s. Lilac is a well-rounded character. I found her irritating sometimes, and certainly moody. But her imperfections, mood swings, and tantrums are all key to her growth. Lilac certainly matures throughout the book and becomes a new woman. Tarver, on the other hand, is extraordinarily unconvincing as an 18-year-old male. He is fairly flat and barely matures or grows at all. In fact, by the end of book I felt like Tarver had become whinier than Lilac, and that grates on me. However, I honestly didn’t notice Tarver’s flatness or unrealistic nature until I thought hard about it. It makes sense that our authors can’t write an 18-year-old male that well, given their age and experiences. But, I mostly didn’t notice because I was distracted by other things. Good things.
More rain. ‘If there’s any more rain than this,’ I think, “We’ll need gills. We could swim up to the sky and leave this place with no need to wait for a rescue ship.’
The writing. I love Amie Kaufman (and Megan Spooner!)’s writing style. The turns of phrase used are beautiful. I found that I was often gripped by the words I was reading. It didn’t matter that the characters weren’t always believable, or the plot dragged, or the plot points were strange and confusing. I was carried forward by the words themselves. This is one of the things I found that I love the most about Illuminae, actually. This is an earlier book of Kaufman’s. It’s obvious that she has yet to find her perfect writing stride, but you can certainly see it in there.
There is a playlist! As a musician and avid reader, I love hearing what music inspires the authors. The first song, Starlight by Muse is exactly the song I imagine Kaufman and Spooner rocking out to while they are writing about life on the Icarus. Learning about Kaufman and Spooner’s collaborative writing process has also been fascinating.
The ending of our story leads you directly into the next book. But in a slightly strange way. Each of the books of The Starbound Trilogy features a different couple. Yet, each of them are somehow tied up in fighting the same enemy. I will certainly push forward and read the other books because I have no idea what could possibly tie these books together. And I am incredibly curious how this will fall together.
And there it is, against all hope, like the sun peeking out from behind the clouds. The smallest hint of a smile.
In the end, I enjoyed reading the book, but I think I didn’t connect well with the plot. The lack of world building frustrated me, but Lilac had great character development. For each thing I disliked, I found another element I enjoyed. So, I’m still conflicted on how I feel about this book.
If you like sci-fi or romance, these books are certainly going to be for you. I just hope that world building improves in the rest of this series!
What do you think?
- Have you read The Starbound Trilogy? Did you enjoy it? Should I keep going?
- How do you feel about Amie Kaufman’s writing? Can you compare any of her works?
- Does this book, a Titanic/Sci-Fi/Survival/Romance appeal to you? If so, why?
- Do you like listening to author/book soundtracks? Why or why not? Where do you find them most often?