Book Review: Jupiter Winds by C. J. Darlington

Jupiter WindsJupiter Winds
C. J. Darlington
Mountainview Books, May 2014
ISBN 978-0-9891621-3-5
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

In 2160, a teenager becomes the bait to capture her missing revolutionary parents she thinks are long dead.

Grey Alexander has one goal—to keep herself and her younger sister Orinda alive. Not an easy feat living unconnected in the North American Wildlife Preserve, where they survive by smuggling contraband into the Mazdaar government’s city zones. If the invisible electric border fence doesn’t kill them, a human-like patrol drone could.

When her worst fear comes true, Grey questions everything she thought she knew about life, her missing parents, and God. Could another planet, whose sky swirls with orange vapors and where extinct-on-Earth creatures roam free, hold the key to reuniting her family?

What could have been a straightforward science fiction tale is really a blend of science fiction, mystery and action adventure, the very hallmarks of one of my favorite kinds of crossgenre fiction. Plot and characterization carry equal weight in Jupiter Winds and I’m really not sure I can say which appealed to me more.

Grey and Rin are young sisters who have learned how to survive on their own in a harsh world although they do have a little help from a few friends. Grey, being the elder, takes her responsibility towards Rin very seriously but, at the same time, she values Rin’s contributions to their partnership and I found that really refreshing. I expect siblings in this kind of story to care about each other but to see them respect each other in equal measure is not so common. These two girls understand how important it is that they work together towards the common goal of staying alive no matter what the dangers might be—and dangers there certainly are.

Revolution against a tyrannical government is a common theme but Ms. Darlington adds her own touches with technology and with the disappearance of Grey’s and Rin’s parents. I particularly loved that, in the girls’ smuggling business, books are hot ticket items. Printed books, that is, and anyone like me who’s hanging on to the belief that printed books will still be around in the future can take a small bit of comfort here. Anyway, when the girls are dragged into the middle of this revolution, they find themselves surprised at every turn but no surprise is bigger than finding out what happened when their parents disappeared years ago. Then again, a certain Mrs. March has a few tricks up her sleeve, so to speak, and her place in the sisters’ lives is probably my favorite plot point of the entire story.

As you might expect from the title, the planet Jupiter plays a big part in the story but Ms. Darlington has also woven in a Christian theme that, to my way of thinking, makes for a more well-rounded tale than much of science fiction. The author uses a light touch with this and I never felt the slightest hint of proselytizing but Jupiter Winds can be recommended to anyone looking for inspirational fiction. Having said that, I should also stress that the term “inspirational fiction” shouldn’t scare anyone off because it’s done so well and so unobtrusively here.

In short, I finally have to say I can’t decide whether the plot or the characters appealed to me more because they’re equally strong. And have I mentioned worldbuilding? Jupiter Winds ranks right up there with the best speculative fiction I’ve read. Grey and Rin, Mrs. March and a fellow named Jet, and both Earth and Jupiter in Ms. Darlington‘s imagination will stand out in my reading memory for quite some time to come.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2014.