Sunday, May 6, 2012

Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan

Title: Glow
Author: Amy Kathleen Ryan
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Release Date: September 13, 2011/July 17, 2012
Pages:  320 pages/336 pages (hardcover/paperback)
How I Got the Book: Bought it. 
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: audiobook clip | book trailer | author website

What if you were bound for a new world, about to pledge your life to someone you'd been promised to since birth, and one unexpected violent attack made survival—not love—the issue?

Out in the murky nebula lurks an unseen enemy: the New Horizon. On its way to populate a distant planet in the wake of Earth's collapse, the ship's crew has been unable to conceive a generation to continue its mission. They need young girls desperately, or their zealous leader's efforts will fail. Onboard their sister ship, the Empyrean, the unsuspecting families don't know an attack is being mounted that could claim the most important among them...

Fifteen-year-old Waverly is part of the first generation to be successfully conceived in deep space; she was born on the Empyrean, and the large farming vessel is all she knows. Her concerns are those of any teenager—until Kieran Alden proposes to her. The handsome captain-to-be has everything Waverly could ever want in a husband, and with the pressure to start having children, everyone is sure he's the best choice. Except for Waverly, who wants more from life than marriage—and is secretly intrigued by the shy, darkly brilliant Seth.

But when the Empyrean faces sudden attack by their assumed allies, they quickly find out that the enemies aren't all from the outside.


Another sci-fi book. For some reason, I keep picking them up despite my apathy for the genre. Perhaps I was hoping Glow would be the one to really impress me and make me like sci-fi. (Or maybe I was reading it solely because an ARC of its sequel was coming. Yeah, that sounds right.) The plot grabbed me and didn't let go, but in all honesty, I can't respect a sci-fi novel that grossly violates Newton's first law of motion.

To be fair, Glow started off with a bang: the invasion by the New Horizon people. Ryan can write a mean action scene and keep readers glued to the pages with top-notch pacing. I can respect the slowly evolving psychological mindset and development of the characters throughout the novel. I dreaded reading the novel when Waverly's response to her boyfriend proposing to her was "Why not marry Felicity Wiggam? She's prettier than I am," but my worries were for little. Who each character was at the beginning of the novel barely resembles who they were at the end, and what this promises for future books in the series is tempting.

So what about Newton's first law of motion being violated? Well, said law goes something like this: an object in motion stays in motion until an external force acts upon it. On Earth, that external force is most often gravity. In space, there is no such external force, so an object will continue moving at the exact same rate forever. It's why tools astronauts lose are goners if they float away.

The long explanation I came up with for this was too long and convoluted, so I reduced it to a few bullet points.

  • The New Horizon slowed down to let the Empyrean catch up.
  • The only way the New Horizon could slow down was to use its reverse thrusters to cancel out their forward momentum.
  • It explicitly says in the novel that they did not use their reverse thrusters to slow down.
  • Because they are in space, there is no external force to act upon the ship. A spaceship in space whose engine is cut can't slow down like a car on Earth can and would.
  • Because of this, the New Horizon should have kept moving at the speed it was going when it stopped using its thrusters. It didn't.
  • Therefore, Newton's first law of motion was violated. Bad sci-fi novel! Bad!

(I really hope that made sense. My explanations of science aren't fantastic.)

And the writing. Oh, the writing! Third-person narration didn't feel like the best choice for this novel. The copious telling-not-showing way it told the story and explained everything kept me from getting fully invested in the story. I normally don't have this problem with third-person, but the way it was used in Glow made the characters feel so distanced from me. Ryan can write great characters, pace her story well, and come up with a great plot, but her technical writing skills need improvement.

Glow packed a real punch with its ending. Unfortunate implications of both Christian priest/leader characters being evil cult leaders/dictators are there, but the stage set in Glow and promised for the sequel Spark will have readers coming back for more. I was worried it couldn't pull through for me because of the major science flub, but I'm happy to say it's a solid novel otherwise. Lord of the Flies in space, almost.

3 stars!

What am I reading next?: Body and Soul by Stacey Kade