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Staff Picks: “Starglass” by Phoebe North

Political intrigue on a generation starship? I was immediately intrigued by Starglass by Phoebe North.

Terra has spent her entire life on the spaceship Asherah, as have generations before her. A group of cultural Jews boarded it 500 years ago just before Earth was hit with an asteroid that was destined to destroy all life on the planet. The ship has been heading towards a new planet they are hoping to populate. But just as they are preparing to land on the new planet, an underground rebel group is poised to challenge the leaders of the ship and the rigid social order that has been necessary to keep the ship running.

What I really admired about Starglass was the world-building. North was all about telling rather than showing. The details of why this community existed on a spaceship, where they were heading, and the nature of their social order were revealed slowly through the narrative rather than being explained up front, which I definitely appreciated. The Jewish cultural references and language were a refreshing twist and not something often encountered, particularly in genre fiction. Because there is so much normal, everyday life on Asherah, it won’t overwhelm readers who aren’t looking for heavy sci-fi.

I do think Terra is an authentic teenage character.  She is torn between loyalties and struggles to even know what the right thing is, let alone do the right thing. I love that she didn’t have all the answers, that she was a bit reckless, that she was sometimes selfish and sometimes just wanted to do teenage things, like kiss.

But those looking for swoon-worthy romance will be disappointed. Though Terra is at times involved with two different possible love interests, neither are very compelling. Terra has prophetic dreams that hint at another destiny, but it’s only the last few pages that clue the reader into what this possibility might entail. Which brings me to my main issue with this novel: a BIG cliffhanger ending. The most interesting developments happen at the very end, so readers who are put off by books that end with more questions than answers should wait until the sequel is out.

This book will likely be a hit with fans of Across the Universe by Beth Revis or other science fiction novels set in space. It’s a complex story, and the next installment is poised to be even more exciting.

- Molly

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