Tuesday 31 December 2013

#CBR5 Book 146. "These Broken Stars" by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

Page count: 384 pages
Rating: 4 stars

Disclaimer! Disney Hyperion granted me an ARC of this through NetGalley in return for a fair review.

Much as I love the colours and the lush quality of the cover for this book (my husband disagrees with me, he thinks it's dreadful), it doesn't actually give a very realistic portrayal of what the book is about. It's not really floating about in space in a ball gown (but the gown does exist, and Lilac does spend a substantial amount of the story wearing it), or even Titanic in space, as I saw it described elsewhere (although there are obvious nods to the film). So if you're hoping for that, you may want to adjust your expectations before going in.

Boy meets girl on board the most expensive intergalactic cruise liner in the known universe. Boy and girl have a connection. The next time boy and girl meet, girl viciously rejects boy in front of her friends. Boy is deeply hurt, but this doesn't stop him from helping her to an escape pod when something goes horribly wrong and the ship they're on is wrenched out of hyperspace and needs to be evacuated. Boy and girl crash escape pod on nearby planet, and have to make their way across the deserted and sometimes dangerous planet with hardly any supplies, hoping to be rescued.

Our boy is Tarver Mendenson, an 18-year-old officer heavily decorated in the recent war and given special privileges aboard the Icarus because he's become a poster boy for the army. He's from a humble background, and not really comfortable in the opulent surroundings and among the wealthy passengers in the first class areas. Our girl is Lilac LaRoux, daughter of the richest man in the universe. Her father owns the Icarus (as well as much of the known universe), and Lilac has learned the hard way that young men who show any kind of interest in her have a nasty way of disappearing. She finds it charming and amazing that Tarver doesn't know who she is when they first meet, but has to dissuade him from ever talking to her again, lest he find himself suddenly deployed to the front line of another war zone before he knows what hit him. She can't tell him this, however, and by the time their escape pod crashes, he thinks she's a spoiled and callous space princess (while mysteriously adept at mechanics) and just wants to be rid of her as quickly as possible.

Being a trained soldier, Tarver has brought a pack of essentials with him. Lilac is dressed in an expensive ballgown and stiletto heels, and partially to live up to Tarver's expectations of her, insists on trekking through the wilderness while wearing them. They are horrified witnesses to the Icarus crashing several days' distance away, and realise that they'll have to get to the wreckage in the hopes of finding other survivors, and so there is a better chance of rescue ships finding them. Lilac is convinced that they will be rescued very soon, but as they trek towards the wreck, it seems more and more likely that she and Tarver are completely alone on the strange planet. But then they start hearing voices...and seeing strange things.

I first read about this book in one of the "On the Smugglers' Radar" posts on The Book Smugglers. When the ARC became available on NetGalley, I was delighted when I was granted a copy. The title also fit perfectly with the December Monthly Key Word Challenge, which meant I had to save the book until it was about to be released. As I said in my opening paragraph, I love the cover. The summary of the book on Goodreads also sounded very intriguing, and I'm happy to say that it didn't disappoint.

The book is told with alternating chapters from Tarver and Lilac's points of view. Before the start of each new chapter, there is also snippets of an interrogation, where Tarver is being questioned, which unfortunately takes away some of the suspense about whether or not the couple get rescued or not. As I also mentioned, there is a certain "Titanic in space" comparison to be made for the beginning of the book, but most of the story is one of being cast away in a lonely and hostile place, fighting for survival. There is a definite opposites attract element at play here, Tarver and Lilac are absolutely from different worlds. The romance that develops between them doesn't seem forced, though, and the story develops in ways that I certainly would never have expected, and parts of the plot were actually quite creepy. Not normally a huge fan of science fiction, this one worked for me, possibly because quite a lot of the story could just as well have been fantasy or historical fiction with a few tweaks. It looks as if the book may be the first in a series. I will be keeping a lookout for the sequels.

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