Book Review: There Once Were Stars by Melanie McFarlane

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Title: There Once Were Stars
Author: Melanie McFarlane
Publisher: Month9Books
Publication Date: April 26, 2016
Genres: Science Fiction, Dystopian, Young Adult

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There Once Were StarsThere Once Were Stars
Melanie McFarlane
Month9Books, April 2016
ISBN 978-0-9968904-0-3
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Peace. Love. Order. Dome. That’s the motto that the Order has given the residents of Dome 1618 to live by. Natalia Greyes is a resident of Dome 1618, a covered city protected from the deadly radiation that has poisoned the world outside for four generations. Nat never questioned the Order, until one day she sees a stranger on the outside of the dome. Now Nat wants answers. Is there life outside the dome and if so, what has the Order been hiding from everyone?

Although I know everybody isn’t a fan of Under the Dome by Stephen King, I am and I like the idea of a society closed off this way. That kind of setting is the first thing that drew me to There Once Were Stars, that and the fact that it’s a dystopian tale. While I had some niggling issues, I enjoyed Nat’s story on the whole.

Society lives under domes because, in the past, a deadly worldwide virus struck and the powers that be chose to irradiate the world to stop it. This was the first hiccup for me as I can’t imagine such a response to a pandemic being thought a good idea, much less the world’s leaders agreeing to it, but it’s certainly a fresh concept for a subgenre that’s becoming a little roadweary. Living under domes has “evolved” into tightly controlled situations with many restrictions on citizens’ freedoms and they’re told that life is not possible on the outside.

Nat is a likeable girl if quite immature. That immaturity isn’t totally surprising considering her very limited life experience but I’m not sure how the people got to the point of almost sheep-like adherence to the rules and her lack of real interest in the outside is odd since she is selected to work in the science unit. I really didn’t expect her story to revolve so much around her personal issues…and a dreaded love triangle…and she was kind of whiny but I *did* like Nat so I mentally encouraged her to pursue answers to the questions she has, particularly about the outside and how people can be surviving despite the admonitions that it’s still too deadly.

There’s a lot of potential in a storyline that involves a virus that produces zombies and a world that’s contaminated by nuclear radiation and, in some ways, I was quite satisfied except that the pace was pretty unexciting, almost making such life-altering conditions something of an adjunct to “a day in the life of”. Eventually, though, Nat begins to really question everything she’s been told all her life and the story picks up. Still, I found it really odd that Evan, the boy Nat saw outside the dome, is assigned to work in the science unit as though he hasn’t just apparently defied the government’s restrictions and secrets.

On the whole, this wasn’t the tightest dystopian I’ve read or even close to it but I never felt the urge to give up and, long before it was over, I’d become comfortable with the discrepancies and occasional plot holes. I wasn’t left with the sense that there will be a sequel but, should there be one, I’d like to spend more time with Nat & Company.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2016.

About the Author

Melanie McFarlaneMelanie McFarlane is a passionate writer of other-wordly adventures, a little excitable, and a little quirky. Whether it’s uncovering the corruption of the future, or traveling to other worlds to save the universe, she jumps in with both hands on her keyboard. Though she can be found obsessing over zombies and orcs from time to time, Melanie focuses her powers on writing young adult stories to keep the rest of the world up reading all night.

She lives with her husband and two daughters in the Land of Living Skies.

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