I didn’t have too much trouble getting into the first Starship Galahad novel, The Comet’s Curse but reading through the rest of the book required patience. The story is intriguing and the characters are all realistic. The problem is that every other chapter is set before the starship takes off from earth and deals with primarily adult perspectives. I wanted the adventure of outer space and strange planets.
I understand why the chapters are sandwiched as they are. Dom Testa, the author, wanted to show everything that happened that led up to the launch. If he had started there, it would have taken too long to get to the action. And it would have been more about the adults than the 251 kids aboard Galahad. Yet, simply launching into the action aboard the ship would have meant missing out on all the emotional turmoil our heroes had been through that shaped them. As well as the problems they’re currently dealing with.
Even though there is a constant flood of backstory throughout the novel, Testa manages to convey genuine suspense and tension. And there is a decidedly creepy subplot concerning a possible stowaway aboard the ship. I enjoyed reading about the characters, watching them get to know each other and figuring out how they were going to relate to each other. After all, there is that whole five-year journey ahead of them. A lot can happen, and hopefully will.
I also enjoy the technology that Testa has created for his series. The idea of the Spiders, the all-terrain vehicles created for the ship’s crews during exploration jaunts, is cool and I can’t wait to see them in action. I wish a blueprint of the ship had been included with the novel, but maybe that will happen later. (You’ll find more information at www.clubgalahad.com. The website also includes entries from Tree’s journal.)
Roc, the artificial intelligence that runs the ship, is a welcome sometime narrator. His humor and insight adds a lot to the story and to the characters. But he’s not infallible, as we find out in this first novel.
Interestingly enough, the Starship Galahad series began as independently published books. Early success of these books garnered praise and awards, and finally attracted the attention of Tor Books. Three of the novels in this series had been written and published before the acquisition. The author’s first contract is for five novels.
The plot concentrates on the survival of the human species. After a comet flashes through the solar system and sprinkles a deadly virus over the earth, all the adults begin to die off. As soon as young people turn 18, they contract the disease as well. Faced with hard choices, earth’s scientists come up with a major plan to put 251 teenagers in charge of a starship and shoot them across the universe toward a newly discovered planet named Eos. No one knows for sure what is there, but they are certain that it is earth-like and the ship’s populace will be able to live on it. With hard work and a lot of luck.
Some of the novel’s plot, especially the romantic triangle that is brewing, is to be expected. Since this is a young adult novel, I wouldn’t expect anything else. We don’t get to meet many of the ship’s crew in this leg of the voyage, but I’m sure those introductions are coming. Each of the kids has unique responsibilities aboard and I’m sure that these abilities will be showcased as challenges arise.
There is science in the book, but it’s not overwhelming. It’s enough to get average kids thinking deep thoughts and intelligent kids excited. The major conceit of the book that will win over all young readers, as well as some older readers, is the sheer driving force of the question, “What if…?” That was the question that kept me reading science fiction all through my formative years. As I read this book, that question kept exploding through my mind.
My 11-year-old is fascinated by science and science fiction. Now that I’m finished with this novel I intend to loan it to him and let him read it. This is the kind of book that he will read and we will talk about for a long time. He’ll probably even draw blueprints of the ship so he can understand where everyone is. Because he’s that kind of kid. I may be tempted to help him. I know we’ll both be looking forward to the second book, The Web of Titan.