Review: Across a Star-Swept Sea

Where do I even begin?!

I LOVED AND ADORED Across a Star-Swept Sea, even more than For Darkness Shows the Stars! Basically, it had everything Amy looks for in a book. Adventure + genetic engineering + fascinating world building + strong heroine + smart hero + love story + pretty dresses + the sea + description that is so delicious I want to eat it like ice cream = perfect Amy book!

star-swept

Across a Star-Swept Sea is a companion novel to For Darkness Shows the Stars, taking place in the same universe. I have to admit, at first I was confused by this, because while there were similarities between the two books, there were also enough differences in terms that were being used and in the names of the places that were supposedly the only places left on the world, that I was wondering how it all fit together. Thankfully, when you keep reading it does eventually make sense. So while I was confused sometimes, it did not overshadow how I was instantly transported into and captivated by Persis’ secret life as a spy. In this retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel, we see that by day, Lady Persis Blake plays a silly aristo who cares about nothing but her appearance. But secretly she is playing the role of the famous spy, The Wild Poppy, trying to change the way of the revolution. As someone who was not familiar with The Scarlet Pimpernel, I had no problem getting into the story. In fact, I think it was easier for me to get into this book than FDSTS, as I was not trying to get caught up into the minutia of which character is representative of which character from the original story (which for FDSTS was Persuasion).

The secondary main character, Justen Helo, meets Persis early on and is forced to pose as her love interest when he seeks asylum from Princess Isla. I really loved Persis, who was brave and smart and cunning, and I loved Justen just as much! He was also extremely smart, very focused and ambitious. He holds on to regrets from his past and his family’s past and uses them as the driving force for his work. He slowly recognizes over time that Persis is much more than a pretty face, and the way these two thought about each other, interacted with each other, and misunderstood each other could be so frustrating, but it was in all the right ways. It was never a frustration that made me want to throw my book across the room, but I was definitely close to shouting at the characters: “Justen, Persis is the Wild Poppy! Persis! Just tell Justen who you are!”

quotes-starsweptseaThe plotting and pacing were perfect, except maybe at the very end, when things seemed to wrap up a little too quickly. I was always intrigued and loved so many of the characters (and hated some as well, as you’re supposed to!). And I absolutely loved hearing about the world of New Pacifica, which sounds completely gorgeous and heavenly (I want to vacation there now please!) and about Persis’ wardrobe, because I’m a sucker for pretty dresses. There were so many detailed elements that Diana Peterfreund included that just made everything feel so real.

I also felt the romance more this time than I had in FDSTS, and it was such a nice slow burn, which I’m also a big fan of.

We do get some cameo appearances from Elliot, Kai, and some of the others from FDSTS. It was sort of weird to see them through Persis and Justen’s eyes, because they viewed them differently than I did. But of course, to them they came from this strange land and they didn’t know anything of their back story. It was almost a little sad to see Elliot and Kai again but not get their perspective, but I was glad to see them, and Ro. But not Andromeda. Bleh.

All in all though, I pretty much loved everything about this book! If you love intriguing world building, have an interest in genetic engineering, and just love a good story, you have to check out these books! And does anyone know if another one is coming out? Because I need one now.

need-itContent Advisory: This one is really clean. Language, sexual content, and violence are all either mild or nonexistent in this book.  

5stars2Have you read Across a Star-Swept Sea? Did you love it as much as I did?!

Advertisements

My Top 3 Earth-Bound Sci-Fi Films

When we think of science fiction, we often think of outer space. But there’s some good science fiction out there that takes place on Earth as well, exploring the “what-if” questions of science and technology. So for Sci-Fi Month, I wanted to focus on my top three films that were set on Earth and discuss what they’re all about. (Warning: there will be spoilers about the plot devices of these movies.)

1. Source Code

Synopsis (stolen from IMDB): An action thriller centered on a soldier who wakes up in the body of an unknown man and discovers he’s part of a mission to find the bomber of a Chicago commuter train.

source-codeThis story deals with alternate timelines. While Colter Stephens is playing the role of Sean Fentress through this tech known as “Source Code,” he decides he wants to do more than find the bomber on the train, but also try to change the demise the train faced by stopping the bomber altogether. He believes doing this will not only give new life to everyone on the train, but himself as well.

The concept of this movie is really interesting, and I love to see all the different things Colter tries out to get answers. This is the alternate timeline concept done right, in my opinion. I also absolutely love the characters in the movie, Colter and Christina especially (and really, they’re the main focus).

2. The Island

Synopsis (from IMDB): A man goes on the run after he discovers that he is actually a “harvestable being”, and is being kept as a source of replacement parts, along with others, in a Utopian facility.

the_islandThe Island deals with clones in an interesting way. The clones are led to believe they are survivors from a cataclysmic event and are being kept safe in a facility, but through a lottery system, they can be chosen to go to “the island,” the last safe natural resource. The reality, however, is that these clones were paid for by their wealthy counterparts, who have them as a sort of insurance policy for their organs (or even to be used to produce a child for them). Lincoln and Jordan are the two main characters who leave the facility and learn the truth of their identity.

I’ve long been fascinated by the idea of clones: do they have souls, do they feel as we feel, would they make all the same decisions as we do, etc. And I think the concept behind The Island is certainly feasible once human cloning is possible, and which is scary to think about.

3. Gattaca

Synopsis (from IMDB): A genetically inferior man assumes the identity of a superior one in order to pursue his lifelong dream of space travel.

gattaca-valid1Gattaca is the one that seems the most realistic to me from this list, and the movie even begins with “the not-too-distant future” as the time identification. Vincent has always dreamed of going to space, but since he was created naturally and not with the science of eugenics, he is considered “invalid” instead of “valid,” and is thus unable to pursue his dream of going into space. But Vincent is determined and disciplined, and pursues the chance to assume the identity of an athletic valid, Jerome Morrow, who was paralyzed in an accident so that he can go after his dream.

I grew incredibly interested in genetic engineering in college, and I’m not sure what sparked it, but it was during that time I sought out this movie (after vaguely recalling my dad telling me its storyline several years before). It definitely challenges the questions of eugenics, of how far would we go with it if we were to implement it into society.

(BTW, if you’re interested in genetic engineering and ever have the chance to visit Chicago, do yourself a favor and go to the Museum of Science and Industry there. They have a fabulous exhibit there on genetic engineering that I thoroughly enjoyed. And also if you’re in Chicago and catch a commuter train to or from a suburb in the area, you’ll feel like you’re in the movie Source Code, for real!)

BONUS!: Inception

I feel weird putting Inception as a bonus because it’s my favorite movie of all time, but when I first decided to do this list I wasn’t thinking of it as a science fiction film. After seeing a couple of posts from other people who do it as such though, I can see why they’d see it that way. What if we could share dreams and manipulate them from within? What if we could organically plant an idea in someone’s mind? I’m sure most of you have seen Inception already but if you haven’t then seriously, what are you waiting for?! It’s AMAZING!

Inception-MovieWhat would you consider your favorite “Earthbound” science fiction film? And what elements of science fiction do you like to see explored in stories that take place on Earth?

scifipostheader2

This is my last official post for Sci-Fi Month, and I just want to thank Rinn Reads for hosting this awesome event! If you do it again, I definitely want to participate again! Go check out some of the other great posts from this month from dozens of other bloggers if you haven’t already!

Review: For Darkness Shows the Stars

I knew I had to read this book when I heard that it was basically Jane Austen’s Persuasion meets genetic engineering, and I’m glad I did!

synopsisGenerations after tampering with genetic experimentation has gone wrong and caused the Reduction, Posts are being born, descendants of the Reduced who are no longer limited to the docile state of the Reduced. Meanwhile the Luddites rise to power, placing protocols in place to ensure that such a disaster never occurs again. Elliot, born and raised a Luddite, was once forced to choose between helping her family and their estate or running away with the Post boy she had grown to love over the years. When he returns four years later, the consequences of her choice continue to haunt her daily, and she comes to learn just how much the world is changing as Posts gain more wealth and power.

thoughts2

There was so much I adored about this book! It was not perfect, but let me outline some of my favorite elements…

The unique adaptation of PersuasionI have not read Persuasion, though I have seen a film version of it and after reading this book, it has jumped much higher on my TBR list. Despite my limited exposure to it, it was obvious how much influence of the story was included. Not only is the basic premise there, but even the writing felt a bit Austen-esque (though more modern-day friendly). And the world-building supported it. The world-building in this story, I felt, was pretty strong. Somehow, Peterfreund was able to craft a world that was believably a part of the future, but also somewhat rooted in the past. The nobility structure of the Luddites mirrors the time in which Austen lived in, where estate owners live in wealth and where it is not uncommon for families to inter-marry (I guess Luddites really don’t worry much about genetics! o.O). I just loved how she merged the past and the future to create the technology-scared world as the perfect setting for an Austen-esque story. I loved the details that married past and future with the sun-carts that were used and the fashion the Posts wore.

I loved the MC, Elliot. She was independent but still loved and leaned on others. She was smart and stood her ground. She was fiercely loyal and self-motivated. I related to her a lot, at least personality-wise. But instead of irritating me (except when she wouldn’t give Kai a chance to talk to her, but more on that later), she inspired me. But she was not perfect. She constantly struggled over the beliefs of what she was raised to believe versus the changes she was seeing in her world. Sometimes others had to guide her and remind her that they were there for her and that she didn’t have to fight her demons alone.

The supporting characters were all unique in their own way. I did not feel any of the characters were one-dimensional. Though Elliot does paint her sister and her father out to be that way, we learn that there is more to both of them than meets the eye. Even Elliot’s Reduced friend, Ro, has a personality that can be clearly seen through her actions. I don’t have minor character that stands out as one that I really love, but I did appreciate them all in their own way.

The letters throughout the book. Elliot and Kai grew up together, and one of their favorite pastimes was writing letters to each other. At first the letters feel like basic background information, but then we see an increase in their relevance, as we see the philosophies of both Kai and Elliot forming at a young age. I like how through these letters, we can understand how the characters have developed to who they are when we meet them in the book.

The feels! Elliot goes through a wide range of emotions in this book, all for understandable reasons! When she practically hated Kai, I did too. When she grew hopeful maybe things would change back to the way they used to be with Kai, I felt my heart hope that for her too.

fordarknessshows

But this book was not perfect. Here’s what I didn’t love so much…

Kai was just a little too mean for a little too long. Again, I have not read Persuasion, but in the movie I don’t remember Captain Wentworth being just so flat-out mean. Kai deliberately stirs up Elliot’s anger for a good portion of the book, to the point where I wondered if I even really wanted Elliot to get back with him! Thankfully, he realizes how awful he’s been and tries to make it right, but Elliot will never talk to him for more than five minutes. Anytime the guy was trying to apologize or tell her he cared or anything, she would never listen very long. Even towards the end when she’s not as mad at him, it’s like she won’t trust herself to talk to him for more than a few minutes. The guy has to write out a letter to explain what he wants to (of course, that’s perfect given the nature of their relationship… but still)!

The sometimes slow pacing and long passages of time passed by. The first few chapters of the book felt clunky to me, not long, but like a strange, slow way to start a book. There’s an early chapter where we meet Ro, but other than the purpose of meeting her specifically as well as someone who is Reduced, it feels really pointless. We do learn things about Ro that carry throughout the book, but I really would have like to have seen something more from the chapter. I feel like Elliot explains a lot early on as well, instead of letting us discover things as the reader through dialogue and such, but thankfully this wanes over the book.

There were also times when periods of time would pass and we would only get a few sentences on what happened. I don’t mind this when used scarcely and when used correctly, but it happened a few times and there were times it felt awkward. Like Kai and Elliot would seem to be close to having a moment when their conversation is interrupted, and then we skip to months in the future with the indication that they have not interacted anymore in that time. I suppose in the nature of the story it is plausible, but it was utilized more times than I personally prefer.

The ending was rushed and not quite as emotionally satisfying as I was expecting. So Elliot finally figures out what Kai has been trying to tell her, that he cares for her still, and yet she continues to completely ignore him and intends to do so until he leaves. Then suddenly he leaves the letter explaining how she feels and she is running out the door without a care in the world, singing that she is going to actually run away with her love this time. I had no problem with this idea really, but it felt so crazy fast, and when it all came down to them finally being open to one another, I didn’t feel the tug at my heartstrings I was anticipating. (I did re-read the ending a second time and it did feel a little more emotionally satisfied, but it wasn’t to the degree I was hoping.)

I was left wanting more. Elliot spends the entire time struggling between what she was raised to believe, what choices Kai has made, and what the world seems to be becoming. I  know there is another book coming out soon that is set in this same universe, and I’m glad Peterfreund did not leave us with an absolute answer of what is definitely right and what is definitely wrong in terms of what we do with genetic engineering, but I would have liked for Elliot to at least have either some sort of resolution or reconciliation… not necessarily to all her questions, because that might take a lifetime, but as how she will go forward with Kai and the Posts while still staying true to herself, as it was clear she had not completely converted to their beliefs, and I honestly don’t think she needed to, especially not just for the sake of love. I just wanted to know what she was thinking at the end when it came to all that, but the romantic story dominated at the end and wrapped the story up.

However, even with these problems, I just adored reading the book so much. I felt giving it 5 stars was too much, but 4 seemed too little, so I’m doing another half rating of 4.5 stars.

4-5stars-edit

I will definitely be checking out Across a Star-Swept Sea, which is not about Elliot and Kai but takes place in the same world. It’s a very fascinating world and I can’t wait to learn even more about it!

quote-fordarkness

Content Advisory: One mild word, no sex, no violence. Very clean!

Have you read For Darkness Shows the Stars? What are your thoughts on it?