The ladybug reads… review – starflight

After reading a bunch of picture books and a few graphic novels and short stories, I thought I’d delve back into the world of YA with Starflight, hoping I’d get a fun sci-fi story. Maybe I’m just getting too old for YA, or maybe YA is just getting old. But this wasn’t really what I hoped for, and though I enjoyed it enough to finish it, there were so many problems that I couldn’t really get excited about the story or feel engaged enough to want to try the sequel.

The problem here is that this is YA romance masquerading as sci-fi. It’s sci-fi for people who don’t read sci-fi. There were so many problems, ranging from actions that defied the laws of physics to issues with worldbuilding. I’m only going to mention a few of them, because I documented so many more in my Goodreads status updates as I was reading; if you want to know more, check those out.

One of the biggest problems that affects the worldbuilding is that the book is so very Americocentric. We’re presumably hundreds of years in the future, and yet our main characters sound and act like 21st-century teenagers. Every planet they visit appears to be a repository of American culture, to the point that I started to wonder what had happened on Earth that there were zero other cultural influences in the whole galaxy.

Oh, and let’s talk about that for a moment. I’m not sure if Landers realizes how big the galaxy is. Humans have supposedly terraformed and colonized their way across it, never discovering alien life of any kind (which flies in the face of the assertion that a planet’s existing ecosystem needs to be completely wiped before it can be successfully terraformed; what ecosystem is being wiped if there’s no alien life?). So all the planets are presumably inhabited by humans. Scientists, you’d think, but no… All of these planets are populated by backward Americans who’ve devolved into things like monarchy, arranged marriage, and even slavery. Humanity has definitely gone backwards, and there’s no explanation for why.

Then there was the science–or lack thereof. I should’ve realized that this wouldn’t be a very science-y book when someone talked about going "west" in space (um… what axis would that be along again?), but I tried to give the author the benefit of the doubt. But things just got sillier from there. Inertia worked at right angles. The artificial gravity depended upon the ship being right side up (okay… how do you determine that in space?), so every time the ship would bank or roll, everything not bolted down would go flying. Wouldn’t the artificial gravity be relative to the ship, keeping everything securely on the floor no matter which way the ship turned? At one point, Solara struggled to put on pants in zero gravity because she didn’t have any weight to use as leverage to push her legs in (forgetting that she had muscles, I guess). I don’t know how this girl puts on pants, but it would actually be easier to get them on without anything weighing your body down.

But the worst science failures came about when ships got near planets. More than once, a ship would be outside the planet’s gravitational pull, and strange things would happen. Like the ship being able to block out the sun for those standing on the ground. Do you know how small a ship (even a huge ship like the pirates’) would look from the ground if it were high enough to be outside the planet’s gravitational pull? At one point, one of the characters could see the hatch on said ship! That’s just silly.

I wasn’t enamoured with any of the characters, either. Solara is pretty much a generic YA heroine, and aside from not being cyborg, kind of reminded me of Cinder from Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series. Doran (I kept reading it as Dorian; how about we stay away from names that are one letter off of overused ones?) is a typical YA pretty boy who’s mean to our heroine. I think you can guess where that’s going. The motley crew of the Banshee is pretty much what you’d expect, with their backstories and twists (that didn’t surprise me). Some fairly major minor characters just sort of disappeared without further mention, leading me to believe that we haven’t seen the last of them. I’m not quite sure who the villains are supposed to be, which makes the ending feel more unsettled, like I didn’t finish the whole book. Was it Demarkus and the pirates? Was it the Daeva (a rip-off of the Reavers from Firefly who, for some reason, have implants in their brains to take away their empathy so they can be better killers… which seems unnecessary to me, because anyone who wants to kill people wouldn’t need such an implant in the first place)? Was it one of Doran’s parents? Who knows?

For some weird reason, I kept reading and I did sort of enjoy the story, despite its weaknesses. That’s unusual for me, especially when I spot as many problems as I did here. I guess if you view this as a fluffy YA romance, it’s not so bad. But if you go into it expecting science fiction that makes actual sense, you’re probably going to be disappointed.