Defy the Stars – Claudia Gray – Constellation #1 – Little, Brown Books – Published 4 April 2017
She’s a soldier. Noemi Vidal is seventeen years old and sworn to protect her planet, Genesis. She’s willing to risk anything—including her own life. To their enemies on Earth, she’s a rebel.
He’s a machine. Abandoned in space for years, utterly alone, Abel has advanced programming that’s begun to evolve. He wants only to protect his creator, and to be free. To the people of Genesis, he’s an abomination.
Noemi and Abel are enemies in an interstellar war, forced by chance to work together as they embark on a daring journey through the stars. Their efforts would end the fighting for good, but they’re not without sacrifice. The stakes are even higher than either of them first realized, and the more time they spend together, the more they’re forced to question everything they’d been taught was true.
Don’t you just love it when a book surprises you? I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Defy The Stars. It just seemed to get better and better. It was clever. It was original. It had so much packed into it. It made me want to desperately read the next book in the series and yet, at the same time, I was totally content with the story just as it was. It made me fall in love with science fiction all over again and reminded me just how good it can be.
Noemi is a solider from Genesis, sworn to sacrifice her life to protect her planet from Earth’s forces who want to destroy Genesis just like they have Earth. Abel is a machine. One of the most advanced robots ever created. But 30 years stuck on an abandoned spaceship has left his wiring a little crossed and he longs for freedom. When Noemi discovers Abel while on a rescue mission, she also discovers that Abel holds the key to protecting her planet from Earth forever. She commands his help and together they explore the galaxy, putting into place her plan. But Abel is growing ever more human, and Noemi is running out of time.
I was struck by how much is packed into this story. There was never a dull moment. Abel and Noemi literally travel the galaxy, and still there is time for plenty of introspection, character development, a hint of romance, friendship, and so many important issues. It touches on some really important and topical themes – climate change, artificial intelligence, refugees, environmental destruction. This book would make an awesome movie. It has all the refined slickness of Star Wars, with a really solid, worthwhile story and characters with whom I totally fell in love – which all makes sense has Gray has written some Star Wars novels.
Noemi is a wonderful protagonist. She is a true solider, stoic, determined and controlled, but from a planet that values faith and trust, grace and mercy. She is kind to those she meets, yet has a harsh exterior, she certainly doesn’t value her own worth and has a backstory of hardship and heartbreak despite living on an idilic planet. She is measured, takes her time to consider her options but also isn’t afraid to take quick action. But it was Abel who really stole my heart. I thought Claudia Gray did a superb job of creating and writing his character. It is hard to make a robot sound robotic, cold and clinical, while also making him more than that. Because that is the whole point of Abel. He is more than just a robot. He is starting to become very human. And his isolation for 30 years and his interactions with Noemi change him. I loved how this was all conveyed through the story. A++ for character development.
There is just the slightest touch of romance, enough to add another layer to the story and certainly something to develop more in later books, but to doesn’t take over the plot. Of course, there is so much else happening. The planets and galaxy Gray has created are richly detailed, the tech is advanced and interesting, but the story was never hard to follow and it remains totally relevant.
Basically, I loved this story and everything about it. I could go on forever about everything I loved. All the secondary characters, so vibrant and interesting and many of whom I hope will reappear in the next books. The subtle way big themes are worked into the story, but in a way that is never preachy. The action. Noemi. Abel. The spaceships. The writing (totally addictive). Okay, you get the idea. Read it!
Category: Young adult fiction.
Genre: Science fiction.
Themes: Robots, artificial intelligence, environment, romance, soldiers, planets, space, spaceships, family, belonging, interstellar travel, orphans.
Reading age guide: Ages 15 and up.
Advisory: Sexual references to prostitution – robots designed specifically for prostitution. Occasional coarse language, sh** (1), bit** (1). Violence – shooting and deaths (mainly of robots).
Published: 4 April 2017 by Little, Brown Books
Format: Hardcover, paperback, ebook. 503 pages.