When a girl who is born to a certain fate must step up to a life that was never meant to be hers, she finds herself torn between knowing her place, and knowing her potential. Her very “handicap” might be the thing that saves the worlds.
Earth Star picks up nicely from where Earth Girl left off, with a prelude by Jarra as she neatly transitions from the events from that book to the reason for this one. Ms. Edwards delivers an equally enthralling sequel, which intelligently clues the reader in on enough that Earth Star could feasibly be a standalone novel.
However, I highly recommend the books are read in order as we learn more details about each character, their home sectors, and the world in general. (It would essentially be the difference between viewing a gorgeous sunflower photograph, and seeing Van Gogh’s sunflower; there’s more texture and life if read after Earth Girl, but Earth Star is good art in its own right.)
By the end of the 28th century, the universe has become separated into two general factions: the “norms” (people who are born with a healthy immune system and can travel the universe at will) and the “Handicapped” (who are among the few born with a faulty immune system that swiftly kills them if they attempt to leave Earth). Jarra, our heroine and point-of-view character, has just come from a major character arc (in Earth Star) where she wanted to prove that even as a Handicapped, she could be just as good — if not better — than the norms, laugh in their face when she revealed her identity, and then return to life as the “ape” (one of the derogatory terms applied to her kind) as usual.
Well, that didn’t quite work out, and I like how her voice in the prelude gives us a sense of how far she has come, yet maintains her trademark spunk.
For fans of Earth Girl, you will love where Military Jarra goes in Earth Star. Jarra finds that even after winning a major medal and having her identity revealed, the attitudes towards her haven’t really changed all that much. I liked this about the story, because it was realistic to how things are—even if someone is a glowing hero and adored worldwide, perceptions can change tomorrow, and no one goes from “ape” to “normal” overnight, not even someone like Jarra. Though it does change things in little ways, and I enjoyed noting those minor things that eventually add up to a sea change.
Now with Earth Star, Jarra has to deal with a different set of disabilities (the “invisible” ones as the author terms them) — and she must overcome them if she is to conquer the new challenges she faces. This time, she has more people on her side, but she’s in the spotlight far more than she would like, and she literally holds in her hands the fate of the universes.
Ms. Edwards writes with a particular grace and heart that weaves a world that is at times marvelous, terrifying, silent, chaotic, and beautiful in an otherworldly way. I could alternate from giggling to gripping my book with anticipation in a matter of pages, and the pacing is wonderfully textured. There is a lovely balance between the familiar and the fantastic so that it has the ring of authenticity while allowing a brief escape into a future (but seemingly parallel) universe.
It reminds me a little bit of why I love Doctor Who, because while it is full of things that are brilliant and fun, it has an undertone of what makes humanity human, and gives us both sides of the coin. It manages to convey socially important messages in marvelous wrapping, and I am very glad that it is one of the pieces of literature to be welcomed both sides of the pond. (Though, my apologies to the Americans, your release date for Earth Star isn’t until April 2014. You can preorder it now, if you would like. The book is appropriately edited to both audiences, with the British version in the classic lilt of British English with their grammar, and the American version with American grammar.)
I enjoyed learning more about this futuristic military, which adds a new dimension to this already fascinating work. In our interview (for You Read It Here First) Ms. Edwards shares her ideas behind the military in part as ”The separate army, navy and air forces of the past have merged into one military that’s cross-sector, recruited from every planet. These military aren’t fighting wars, they’re peacekeeping, they’re running solar arrays, but their biggest job is opening up new colony worlds. So when I was thinking of this future military, my ideas were coming from peacekeeping forces and emergency services. I felt the future military would probably take more ideas from the air forces of the past than other forces, though I’ve deliberately used a mix of ranks from a variety of forces.” The pacing of the military sequences had a special rhythm that made for a great read.
I love the language Ms. Edwards invents for this world (though at times I wished there was a glossary I could refer to, as I wasn’t sure if “grazzed” was “shocked” or just surprised, and if it could have a negative and positive connotation). It would be “amaz” if Ms. Edwards posted a glossary on her site in the near future.
This story ends somewhat abruptly, yet with the perfect note, and I cannot wait for the final chapter, due next summer!