Book Review: Beyond Our Stars by Marie Langager

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Title: Beyond Our Stars
Author: Marie Langager
Published by: Bloomsbury Spark
Publication date: December 19th 2013
Genres: Romance, Science Fiction, Young Adult

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Beyond Our StarsBeyond Our Stars
Marie Langager
Bloomsbury Spark, December 2013
ISBN 978-1-61963-466-4
Ebook

From the publisher—

Fleeing a destroyed Earth, seventeen-year-old orphan Hope grew up living in the confines of a spaceship heading to CR-3, a new home planet. She’s been kicking the steel walls for too long and ever since she broke her boyfriend’s heart, touchdown could mean open air and a fresh start. But no one expected the Locals.

Hope’s dreams of freedom turn into nightmares when the Locals trap the humans and mark groups for observation. At any moment she can be called into a holographic observation room for testing. Some days she’s drowning in a strange dark ocean, some days she’s locked up without food, and all with the one boy she can’t seem to forget.

As the Locals study Hope, she studies them. She wants to believe the tall grey creatures could be peaceful, but as the simulations become more dangerous, Hope is about to become the human race’s last chance for survival.

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Let me first clear up a misunderstanding. I’ve seen a few other reviews that refer to Beyond Our Stars as dystopian fiction but it is not dystopian in any way. Put simply, dystopian refers to a society gone bad in some way through political oppression, totalitarianism, religious mania, and other repressive societal behaviors that we bring upon ourselves. Dystopia often follows apocalypse and this book can be considered post-apocalyptic. However, no dystopian society has arisen from the ashes of that apocalypse. If anything, society has become more egalitarian.

Probably not surprisingly, there are things I like about this book and things I dislike and, in some cases—especially the character, Hope—like and dislike are in pretty much equal supply. I also had somewhat mixed feelings about Chief Up whose treatment of Hope is rather odd and yet he seems to be a decent stand-in for the father she lost. Then there are the plans for Repopulation. I get Hope’s aversion to the idea on one level but not her dismissal of the need to begin increasing their numbers once they have a new home.

One thing in particular struck me about these surviving Earthlings, their occasional irrational behavior. As they land on this new world, they know it’s an occupied planet and they know crops have been planted, presumably by the people/creatures living there. One of the most critical things they don’t know is what kind of reception they’ll receive, whether the inhabitants are friendly or perhaps deadly adversaries. Still, anyone with half a brain would—should—know that those inhabitants will be wary at the very least. Why, then, is their first move one of immense thievery that could actually impact the lives of the natives?

Worldbuilding is considerably lacking. We know that Earth “failed” and various natural disasters are mentioned but we have no idea how we arrived at that point. It’s also rather difficult to believe that Earth could reach the stage of being completely uninhabitable in such a relatively few years from our own time, not to mention how we could develop in that same short period of time the scientific ability to build a spaceship capable of carrying and sustaining 5,000 people for 5 years. That would be more credible if the people were in cryonic chambers but they are all up and active for the entire journey. Supplies on board are another issue since there is apparently no shortage of storage space for even junk food. This ship must be the size of the state of Texas to carry all that food for so many people for so long, not to mention all the other supplies needed.

Now, having said all that, anybody reading this review might think I heartily disliked this book but I actually liked it very much for a variety of reasons. Chance is a delightful guy and it’s a real pleasure to see a male character, especially a teen, be the softer half of a couple, the one most ready to show his vulnerability. How refreshing! Hope is appealing in her own way; her prickliness comes from selfprotection, I think, and I wonder how she could be so unaware of her standing among her shipmates but she’s so strongminded, so determined to do more than just survive. She’s a leader, a girl one can depend on, a true heroine in the making. Other characters are very appealing and so well-drawn that I feel as though I know them, people like Weeks and Grim and Legacy and Billie. I want these survivors to keep on surviving, to find a way to make peace with the Locals, as unlikely as that may be.

I love that Ms. Langager chose to write science fiction, especially the sort that involves other sentient beings. Our younger generation of readers needs to absorb and appreciate what can be done with science fiction, the futures that can be built and the human challenges that can be re-defined.

One last thing I’ll mention that’s in the plus column for me is the twist on the aliens-invading-Earth scenario. Beyond Our Stars makes the reader think “What if WE were the aliens invading someone else’s home?” I applaud Ms. Langager for making us think beyond ourselves.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, March 2014.

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About the Author

Marie LangagerMarie Langager lives in beautiful Portland, Oregon with her husband and son. She has a B.A. in English. She’s certain that many new adventures await us beyond our stars.

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