Navigating the Stars – Maria V. Snyder – Sentinels of the Galaxy #1 – Harlequin – Published 19 November 2018
Year 2471. A new discovery. Those three words thrill my parents – the galaxy’s leading archaeologists – but for me, it means another time jump to a different planet. One so big, my friends will be older than my dad when we arrive. And I’ll still be seventeen. Thanks, Einstein. I really can’t blame Einstein, though. No one expected to find life-sized terracotta warriors buried on other planets. So off we go to investigate, traveling through space and time. With my social life in ruins, I fill my days illegally worming into the quantum net – the invention that allows us to travel in space. Of course the only person close to my age is a hot-but-pain-in-the-neck security officer who threatens to throw me into the brig. But when one of the warrior planets goes silent, we have bigger problems on our hands. The planet’s entire population might be dead. And now my worming skills, along with a translation of an ancient alien artefact, might be the key to finding out why. But my attempts to uncover the truth lead to the discovery of a deadly new alien phenomenon, and also alert those who wish to keep it quiet. The galaxy is in real danger and time is not on our side…
I am a huge fan of Synder’s Ixia Chronicles and her Outside In series, so when I heard she was writing a new sci-fi novel I knew I just had to read it. I am so glad that HarperCollins Australia went ahead with publishing – yay Australia! Navigating the Stars is full of adventure, awesome advanced technology, romance, archaeology, hacking, code breaking and trouble-making. With Synder’s signature writing style and touch of humour and banter, Navigating the Stars is sure to thrill all her devoted fans and entice many new readers to join the ranks of her followers.
Lyra lives on planet Xinji – one of hundreds found after the discovery of the quantum net and the ability to crinkle time, moving tens of years through space in a matter of days. Her parents are archaeologists working to uncover the mystery of the thousands of Chinese Terracotta Warriors buried on planets spread throughout the Milky Way. But when a new planet is discovered, it means Lyra is forced to follow her parents deeper into space, leaving behind her friends and her planned future. But big discoveries await and this time Lyra will find herself right in the middle of the big and dangerous discoveries.
It took me a few chapters to get my head around the setting, timeline and context of Navigating the Stars but once I did I was hooked. There is something about Snyder’s writing that just grabs you and I particularly liked her use of unique voice and humour in Lyra’s narration. Written in first person, Lyra sometimes seems to be directly addressing the reader, inviting them to join her story and see things her way – even if she is about to lead us all straight into trouble. I loved her little asides and wry comments. Lyra is a strong character – but perhaps not in a traditional way. Lyra is smart, frequently helps her parents with archaeology related task and is very good at worming her way through security restrictions in the Q-Net. Her ability to puzzle out problems and find answers suits her tenacious spirit. But Lyra is far from fearless and is less than physically strong, has mood swings (she is a teenager, after all) and would be happy to leave the fighting to the adults. Yet, with her resilience and humour and desire to help, Lyra never gives up, or as she puts it, Refuses To Be Ignored.
Romance plays a big part of this story, and I loved it! Niall starts off as an annoyance to Lyra – sullen and constantly threatening to report her less-than-legal activities. But thrown together and then forced to support each other to stay out of trouble, Niall and Lyra end up working together and find they make a good team. Which is handy, because they must face some dangerous challenges.
History meets the future in Navigating the Stars. As Lyra, her parents and teams of scientists uncover ancient artefacts with futuristic technology (and a good bit of elbow grease), they must also try to work out how the Warriors made it onto planets only recently discovered. With no hint of the aliens lifeforms that might have transported them or reasons why this might have happened, Lyra, with a bit of help from friends both past and present, starts to uncover clues that puts all their lives in danger.
The technology in Navigating the Stars is cool – from time crinkling space ships, to the Q-Net and Lyra’s ability to worm (read: hack) her way through intelligent streams of data. While the whys and hows of the technology isn’t the focus of the story, it all works together to make the flow of the story possible. This means readers who are not big fans of science fiction can still enjoy this book and the adventure, romance and family dynamics that take the bulk of the book’s focus. The only problem I had was a few details that were missing or brushed over. For example, where does all the food come from? There was no mention of the source of food – they all eat plenty and the chefs cook it for them in the galley and cafeteria, but where did it come from? Earth? Space cows? Life on an otherwise mostly desert planet? And what about waste systems and cleaning systems and all the basic things of life that takes resources and people to make happen? Maybe I just missed those details or they were excluded so they didn’t detract from the flow of the story but I was very curious and often distracted by these little details.
Navigating the Stars is the first book in the Sentinels of the Galaxy series. I am eagerly anticipating book 2 and the continuation of Lyra’s story. In the meantime, I will enjoy sharing their first book multitudes of readers from our library who can’t wait to get their hands on a copy.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Category: Young adult fiction.
Genre: Science fiction.
Themes: Space, archaeology, hacking, friendship, technology, romance, space ships, time dilation, family.
Reading age guide: Ages 12 and up.
Advisory: Sexual references – parental discussion/warning about sex, heavy kissing scenes. Infrequent coarse language, f*** (1), sh** (11), bit** (1), pi** (12), as***** (1), di** (1).
Published: 19 November 2018 by Harper Collins Australia – Harlequin.
Format: Paperback, ebook. 320 pages.