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.
This wasn’t an easy read for me. Not only did real life constraints make it difficult for me to find the time to read but the writing itself didn’t exactly suck me in. Ryan’s writing is efficient and it gets the point across but she isn’t a wordsmith like Laini Taylor is. She’s a plotter, and that’s a skill that means more to me than pretty words.
If you’ve read the blurb you know there are two space ships carrying the last vestiges of the human race to a faraway place and that there are two teenagers in the middle of it all. The blurb also promises a love story or a triangle, but it’s hardly mentioned after the set up. It’s the process of growing up in an unlikely situation and learning to take responsibility for one’s actions that dominates the story. That and survival.
I’m not going to talk about the science simply because I decided not to think about it too hard. I’d never been able to finish reading the book had tried. Not that there is much scientific detail to bog down the tragedy of humanity, but there was enough for me to consider it unlikely. That applies both to the space travel as well as to the fertility solution especially considering they were fleeing an environmental catastrophe… I said I wouldn’t talk about it and I won’t. Instead let me introduce you to the main characters.
On the plus column there’s Waverly, an anti-Mary Sue and a very regular sixteen year old girl at the cusp of adulthood. Because of the mission she’s expected to marry and procreate, but she has her doubts. In a way, what was done to her should’ve been a blessing for her and her desire to choose for herself had she actually been given the opportunity. Because she’s still a child she still needs her mother, but because she’s almost an adult she also learns to take care of herself and others, even if there are mistakes made along the way.
On the minus column there’s Kieran. He’s intolerable know-all who goes through a very difficult journey to realise that maybe he doesn’t know it all after all. He too learns from his mistakes even if he’s not ready to face the slippery slope he’s drifted on.
You can invert the columns if you like but you can’t change what dominates them both: Religion. Christianity. The folly of knowing God’s will and imposing it on others. Or simple ambition, thirst for power. And the rejection of it.
Glow reads like a carefully constructed adventure story with each point of view delivering only a sliver of the bigger picture. Both Waverly’s and Kieran’s chapters are subjective to their situation and viewpoint, but it’s the use of third limited that allows the reader enough distance to see through the (obvious) manipulation. Ryan doesn’t shy away from showing flaws and gaping holes in morality in absolutely everyone. Each character is only acting and reacting based on their own experiences. Except when they’re not.
Apart from Waverly, Kieran, and Anne Mather—and you can challenge me on Anne Mather—all other characters are accessories and subject to the whims of the plotter. For example, Ryan tries to justify Seth’s behaviour after the kidnapping in couple of different ways but I didn’t find those reasons completely believable. And unless he gets his own chapters in the following books, I fear he’s doomed to remain a pawn in Waberly and Kieran’s game and the object of their mutual desire.
Glow isn’t an easy read because of its subject matter and real moral dilemmas but it is a book that makes you think. I wasn’t completely sold on the delivery, but I applaud the message.
This recommendation comes with a warning: Glow is the first book of Sky Chasers series of which only first two have been published. The third is expected to be published in 2014.