**spoiler alert** I picked this book up because I am fascinated by space stories and love to imagine what life would be like on other planet(oids) bes**spoiler alert** I picked this book up because I am fascinated by space stories and love to imagine what life would be like on other planet(oids) besides Earth. Since the jacket blurb said the protagonist lets her best friend speak for her and that she wants to quietly care for plants I thought it might be a good book for both me and my friend Snowplum, but I'd have to vet it first. Vet I did, and review I shall!
Karen Bao sets the bar high with a story that opens in a place we've all looked at and wondered about: the moon. Right away we're immersed in a fully functioning lunar society that has been established for some time and is apparently set to keep running; things seem to be pretty well taken care of, at least on the surface. As we enter Phaet's life we are introduced to what is clearly a well researched and thoughtfully designed human habitation plan for a lunar colony. A lot of lines between science and science fiction get blurred here, and so skillfully that, once immersed, you'd never think to doubt Phaet's point of view.
Phaet's friendship with Umbriel is deep and earnest, and I believe that in another dimension, they are together holding hands and planting things and cultivating new species of plants. In this book, however, the gentle romantic promise that seems to be implied in a boy-girl friendship as they grow up is abruptly thrust aside by a Major Event: Phaet's mom is sick and gets taken away and later arrested.
When faced with this set of impossible circumstances, Phaet's decision to enter the military to save her family forces her to become a stronger person; it also draws out her weaknesses as well, and begins to expose the weakness and bias of the community and their society as a whole. To me Phaet is a very relatable character, a thinker who prefers not to engage in conversation; I can see how that might turn some readers off, but there's so much happening for Phaet to observe that I can't imagine anyone ever complaining about being bored.
In training Umbriel is replaced by Wes as the main male figure in Phaet's life. Phaet is uncertain how to handle him, I think because Bao is attempting to avoid all the common clichés in YA lit that happen when you throw a boy and a girl together to do incredible physical fitness training... It's a little squirrelly there when we're not sure if Wes is going to want to be more than friends, but thankfully he's just as determined and single-minded as Phaet. Nothing lovey-dovey happens between these two.
There were certain parts of training and learning that reminded me a lot of Ender's Game, not unpleasantly. It was evident that all the training was meant to both develop character and build relationships that would be helpful to Phaet when things get heavy – which they inevitably do.
Phaet continues to line 'em up and knock 'em down with her goal-driven grit, lands a great position, and it seems like everything is going to be coming up roses: she secures a the highest rank, makes the most money, frees her mother, and can look forward to a life of militia-ness. This is where the internal conflict ignites. It starts to seem as though the whole system has been working against her from the get-go when she not only graduates as best, but is given a special mission to fly out on the date of her mother's trial... could this be a setup? Oh boy, is it ever.
Phaet is about to discover that her mother (and probably her father too) was secretly involved in an organisation called Dovetail (and "Phaet" means "dove," so her mother meant it for her, we think) who wanted to reform the current Committee-ruled government that hadn't held a proper election ever and who have not been doing a grade-A job of running this colony. Revolution must be at hand! But stuff happens, and Phaet is forced to flee arrest with personally-loyal fellow soldier Wes.
They end up on Earth. Who knows what's going to happen from there? The politics on the moon are going to explode and i want to be there to see it happening! I wish I'd written this so I could write more of it and have more of it to read right this instant. Goes without saying that I will be eagerly awaiting Ms Bao's next book. Thanks for a great read. ...more