Kenzie Washington, fourteen-year-old girl genius, signs up for a two-week tour as a cadet on the spaceship of her idol, Captain Dash Drake. Too bad Dash, who once saved the galaxy from the evil Forgers, is a broke loser and much less than meets the eye.
But when an intergalactic evil appears and launches an attack, Dash, Kenzie, and the ship’s crew escape, making them the next target. On the run and low on gas, Dash and Kenzie encounter cannibal space-pirates, catastrophic equipment failure, and a cyborg who’s kind of a jerk.
Kenzie is determined to discover the bad guys’ secret plan. But for her to succeed, Dash needs to keep his brilliant, annoying cadet from getting killed …which is a lot harder than it sounds.
The short: If you liked my book and "hilarious sci-fi adventure" sounds like something you'd enjoy, then you should read this too.
This book took me by surprise. The author contacted me via email last fall and asked if he could send me a copy. I said sure, but with the caveat that my TBR was out-of-control and I likely wouldn't be able to read it anytime soon. To be honest, there are a ton of books on my shelf I'll probably never get around to reading. I did, however, glance inside and read the first paragraph, and because that first paragraph was good I read the first chapter. It was good, and I emailed him to tell him so.
Then I put the book away for 8 months or so.
But I never forgot that first chapter. It was well written and funny, so I recently decided to pick it up again, read a little more, and see if I liked it.
Reader, I did. I really, really did. This book is so good. It's hilarious--I laughed out loud countless times while reading it. It's fast-paced in the best way possible--the end of every chapter pretty much compels you to start reading the next. It's got a ton of really genuine heartfelt moments, and characters (so many characters) that are so endearing.
Rubin's dialogue is especially fantastic. The voices are so damn...honest, and I really loved that.
If you're looking for gritty space-opera, this ain't it. There's a ton of silliness here, but it never (in my opinion) makes the stakes seem less than dire, and I know that's a tricky tightrope to walk.
If you're a fan of Becky Chambers' Wayfarers books, or Alex White's Salvagers series, or Murderbot, or my books, there's a good chance you'll find something to enjoy here. I blew through this book faster than any book I've read in a long while, and if you decide to give it a shot I sincerely hope you enjoy it even half as much as I did.
’Dash scrubbed furiously, but the dark, stubborn stains refused to budge from the airlock floor. This is what happened when you had an Octopus for a first mate.’
’”This is hopeless,” he said, rising to his feet with a grunt. “Let’s just get the boxes stowed so this place isn’t a complete disaster. I still have--” Dash paused mid-complaint. He sniffed the air. “What’s that smell?” Squix flashed green, his free tentacle coiling up. “I don’t know.” Then, defensively, “You know I’ve always wanted a nose.”
Dim Stars is a fun, fast-paced romp through space with some wonderful characters that you’ll root for, including an Octopus - who speaks - who is part of the crew, the Frawgs, the Crags - who have spikes at the top of their head instead of hair, and pirates to add some adventure. A fun read for all ages, a Family Friendly book aimed at YA readers that will appeal to them, as well. While this is a Sci-Fi story on the surface, there is so much more to this as the story evolves, it includes characters that you’ll want to root for, many moments that add a comical touch, and a few hair raising ones, as well.
An engaging and fun character-driven story which made me laugh, and kept me reading, hoping these characters would survive this adventure. There are many twists and turns, some of which had me squirming, or holding my breath, and many that had me laughing.
What I really loved about this was how easy it was to envision it all, which added to my enjoyment and those moments where I was anticipating potential disaster.
As the holidays approach, and vacations loom on the horizon for those with school vacations to contemplate - how to keep the kids entertained in the forefront of parents’ minds - this would be an excellent choice for an entertaining and engaging read with characters that the entire family will root for.
Dim Stars: A Novel of Outer-Space Shenanigans is full of humor and, yes, shenanigans. There’s an octopus first mate and a 14 year old super hacker genius girl who saves the day. A pasta obsessed commander. A captain who’s kind of an idiot. A snarky robot ship doctor. These are just some of the characters you’ll meet and together they make a mildly exasperating crew.
I think Dim Stars is totally appropriate for middle grade or younger teens. I mostly found it silly but there are good themes for teens. What do you do when your hero isn’t actually that heroic? Believe in yourself. Make the best out of, and do your best in every situation. Be brave. I would hand this off to a middle grader for sure.
Plot wise Dim Stars definitely wasn’t slow or boring. There’s a plot to steal planets and wreak havoc in the galaxy. There’s a cranky not-heroic-at-all captain who’s heart grows about three sizes as he admits he has responsibility to the galaxy and his crew.
And…an octopus. I already said that but come on, there’s an octopus crew member. I love when alien biology and different races comes into the plot. There’s a hilarious exchange where one alien thinks the octopus is a human and says they all look alike 🤣
Anyway, I don’t have a ton to say about the book but again, I like it for the recommended age group. I think he hit all the boxes for YA and am coming in at 7.5 to indicate a fairly strong book.
Do you ever want to clap at the end of story because you had such a great experience reading it? I do. That's how I felt after reading Dim Stars. We all need a book like that- a story where we can cheer when the good guys win, laugh at their exploits, and feel sad when the squid gets put in a jar. Sometimes life just needs a fun book to get us through the daily nonsense.
Down on his luck Captain Dash Drake became the hero of Gantoid IV, after the Forger War. His hero status has faded over the years though, along with the perks that come with it and now, he’s just getting by. These days, he runs a cadet immersion program to help pay the bills and to keep his aging ship up and running (the free labour is a big plus too) but, it's getting harder every season for him to get sign-ups for the program.
Kenzie Washington 14-year-old genius cadet at the Alliance Academy, is over the moon because she gets to spend two weeks on Dash’s ship, learning from her hero. In person. Not just through the stories about his exploits, and the book he wrote- which by the way, she can quote all the important tips - right down to the page numbers.
Armed with that unrelenting optimistic outlook of a fourteen-year-old with a plan, Kenzie, still has that idealistic faith in people* that hasn’t been crushed yet by reality. She thinks the best of everyone but especially about her hero, Captain Drake. Her Pollyanna outlook does get a little damaged with a big dose of reality, but thankfully not so badly, that we lose what makes her so compelling and loveable.
All the characters are wonderful, and get a lot of screen-time but Kenzie is the one that carries the heart of this story, with her enthusiasm and willingness to try to do the right thing- even in the face of failure. She’s like Annie, or Anne of Green Gables in space, except not an orphan- well, not entirely anyway.
*using ‘people’ broadly here for the purpose of making my life easier in writing this review.
The rest of the crew is rounded out with some really fun characters. I loved them all and each of them, had their moment in the spotlight to prove they deserve to be a part of the crew. A few others are picked-up along the way but I will leave them to be discovered on your own.
The first mate, Squix is an Octopus and an absolutely hilarious sidekick who plays the straight man, but unintentionally to some of the jokes. I adored him. Someone needs to make me a Pop collectible version.
Dr. Bill- The medical robot repurposed from loading bay equipment, gave me Voyager-hologram Dr. vibes, but crabbier. I got a kick out of him and Dr Twillem.
The siblings, Jo and Vox are Crags, in short- they’re rock people. Like Kenzie they are also cadets that joined for the two-week camp. Jo, is the social media butterfly valley girl, of whatever year this takes place in (I didn’t think to write it down if it said) she doesn’t seem to have a thought in her head about anything, outside her social feeds, but when the chips are down, she comes through with flying colours, or is it flying gravel?
Her brother Vox, is a tech genius and likes to take things apart to see what makes them work- occasionally taking stuff apart that he shouldn’t. Unfortunately, Vox lost his mouth in an accident, so doesn’t speak, but shows his caring for his sister in little ways throughout the story. I loved how he would go back and hug Kenzie, as a thank you for saving his sister, or himself. Also, his rework of the location transmitter, totally gave me Max Headroom images in my head. Omg. I’m still laughing at that little bit of unintentional (or was it?) creepiness.
The cast endeared me with their antics but it was the sweet moments between them that really made them special.
I couldn’t help but think this would have been a fabulous audio book.
Filled with a charming, but zany cast, it’s a story that says- if your heroes aren’t up to par- be your own hero. It’s action-packed and twisty enough to keep things interesting, and the downright hilarious situations and comedy- just this side of goofball, kept me smiling throughout and is great for young and old alike. I can’t say enough about this one. It will be on my 2022 top-reads for the year, for sure.
I won a copy of this last year in a giveaway on twitter. Thank you to Brian P Rubin for the signed copy and also to the lovely ladies at Storytellers on Tour for hosting the giveaway.
Dim Stars follows Kenzie fourteen year old who signed up on a two-week program led by her idol, Captain Dash Drake, hero of the Forger War. Well, Kenzie ended up getting disappointed coz Dash is a broke loser. I guess there's a reason for the "Never meet your heroes" saying 🤷🏽♀️ Soon, they find themselves attacked and being chased across the galaxy.
It has witty banters, actions, and has me laughing until the end. The characters are well-rounded and wonderful. The banters between them flowed naturally and always delightful. The world-build is well-inagined and the pacing is good. It was fun seeing the plot unfold!
Overall, Dim Stars is is a delightfully fun read and has a fantastic characters! It's a wonderful space opera that made me think of animes and I don't even know why 😅 It's also a good start for those who want to start reading sci-fi.
On one level, this is a YA-friendly sci-fi comedy with plenty of zippy space adventure tossed in. But on another level, none of that really matters, because this is also such a sharply written, character-driven story that things like "genre" and "age level" are almost irrelevant.
Basically what I'm saying is that even if you aren't a young adult reader, and even if you don't care about sci-fi or zippy space adventures, I'm confident you'll love this book — and I say this as a middle-aged man who hasn't bothered with the genre much since my pre-teen years. More than anything, Dim Stars is just a whole bunch of fun. I laughed a lot, I had a great time, and in the end, I was even moved. Read it!
Cute and sweet, with heavy Galaxy Quest vibes. The author’s cleverness with the chapter titles was one of my favorite things about the book, like a chapter ending with Dash saying, “No, they didn’t,” and the next chapter titled “They Did.” This felt like a PG sci-fi movie. Maybe even G. Not a lot of agony, nobody died, and nobody swore. There could have been a little more plot and character development, but the story was fun and had me rooting for Kenzie, Dash, and the gang. I liked the author’s acknowledgements at the end—he seems like a good egg, and he made me laugh.
I went into this book not expecting anything, and came away pleasantly surprised. Dim Stars is a goofy sci-fi action story with charming characters. While reading I kept thinking along the lines of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy or Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Kenzie also reminded me of Ender in how brilliant she is, just with a much less serious tone.
4.5 stars (rounded up). If you like science fiction space opera with a quirky sense of humor, then I recommend this one. It's found-family and initially low stakes, but turns into extremely high stakes later in the book. It's self-published, and Amazon gives it a reading age of 12-18 (probably because of the three teenagers in it). Ignore that. The teen/YA-ness is dialed low. Adults will enjoy this too. One of the MC's, Kenzie Washington is a fourteen year old girl genius so the improbability level is very high at times. I'm okay with that, and found this a (very) quick fun and I will definitely be looking forward to the sequel(s).
Dim Stars is story with unique and imaginative worldbuilding, showcasing a range of interesting non-human characters, such as a talking octopus, people made of rocks who puke gravel, and let's not forget, Frawgs. Not frogs. Frawgs. But yes, they're frog-humanoids. One of the standout elements of the book is the humor, which while subjective, always worked for me. The author even managed to make *chapter titles* funny. Multiple times. Let that sink in.
While the writing style feels aimed at a younger audience, the occasional curse words sometimes conflict with that. It wasn't a problem for me, though it did make me wonder what target audience the author had in mind while writing the book. Whatever audience it was, count me in it. I had a great time throughout, despite a few minor nitpicks.
For instance, the plot progression in the first half of the book is slow, with unclear motivations and goals for the characters beyond making enough money to pay for spaceship upkeep. Upon rereading some early chapters, I found that some important plot details were delivered through a news broadcast; however, the character didn't pay it much mind, which meant I also didn't pay it much mind, instead assuming that was some flavorful worldbuilding. This lack of direction early on made it a bit difficult for me to fully invest in the story.
Another issue is the convenient use of the main character's hacking abilities, which solve almost every problem without significant consequences. My favorite part of the book was when she was finally unable to use her near-superpowers because an antagonist outwitted her. More moments like that would have gone a long way, but I think it came down to the author choosing to keep the tone of this story lighter than I might have preferred.
Despite my nitpicks, the ending is well-executed and provides a satisfying conclusion to the story. However, it failed to evoke a strong emotional response from me, with some of the most potentially emotional movements quickly being swept aside for the sake of humor.
I'd still absolutely recommend the book, though. Most of my problems with it were just personal preference, and minor issues to boot. Dim Stars is both fun and funny, from cover to cover. If you're looking for a quick, refreshing read and the humor lands for you—you'll be able to tell just from reading chapter one—this might just be the perfect book for you.
What a fun book! The characters felt vivid, like I really got to know them after a short amount of time. The cast of characters was unexpected and delightful, striking back at the male-dominated sci-fi landscape with a mostly-female cast, not to mention an octopus!
The last third I just sped through, which means all the build up before the book really paid off. I knew these characters, and seeing how things unfolded was satisfying. I was even guessing on some things right up until the end.
A fun read for any aged fans of sci-fi or adventure.
One thing I found pretty funny: a repeated theme of some characters moving from thinking a thought to immediately saying precisely what they were thinking. This seemed to frequently be Kenzie and Dash. I'm not sure if it was intended to show how Kenzie is deeply similar to Dash in some ways, or if she's internalized some of Dash's behavior so much from reading his book, but I got a few good laughs from it.
A favorite line: "He unwrapped a fresh Earth Bar and took a bite, hoping the taste of nougat would help him forget that his life had started resembling a garbage fire. It wasn't working." Oh if only nougat was that powerful.
I really loved the characters, and the way dialogue flowed so naturally and easily between them. This genuinely made me laugh a few times. I really enjoyed the banter between the characters.
All of the crew are very loveable, but I especially liked Kenzie. From her first appearance, you know she's going to be trouble! Kenzie is intelligent and full of great ideas, and has memorised Captain Dash's book. She gets the crew out of several scrapes (as well as getting them into a few). I really enjoyed her interpretations of events and Dash's reactions to her.
The story is quite fast paced and easy to follow. The book is very visual, too, so it's really easy to picture what's going on.
This is a brilliant light-hearted and fun sci-fi. I'd recommend it to fans of the Aurora Cycle, or anyone looking for found family or fallen hero tropes.
Dim Stars s a hilarious romp through outer space with twists and turns in every chapter. This imagination bending sci-fi novel kept me on the edge f my seat while laughing out loud as the characters hurtle from one futuristic disaster to the next.
Running through it all is a true picture of humanity at its worst and best with all the self doubt and triumph that we feel in our own lives.
I’d highly recommend this book for anyone, perhaps especially for the young adult reader.
The bottom line is that I very much enjoyed it. It was exactly what it said on the tin ("outer-space shenanigans") without being over the top or annoying. I think Rubin does shenanigans better than Scalzi. The characters were well-done and very true to themselves. The problems and issues were well-thought out and not over-dramatized. And if the ship resembles a Corellian YT-1300 freigther (and it's captain and their modus operandi) a little closely, well, who is that hurting, really? I loved it.
My only hesitation (and the only thing that might bump this down to a three-star) is something some of you are going to take issue with, but it's my own opinion, so if you disagree just move along OK? The cover has a Black girl on it, and the protagonist is a Black girl. Yes! Diversity! That's great. But the author is white, and he doesn't delve at all into what it means that Kenzie is Black. There's a bit in there about her not knowing how to control her hair and so wearing in poms which might have been about what she missed growing up without her Black mother (who wore her hair neatly in braids) but also might not have. Does this mean anything? Maybe. Maybe not. I can't find any Black people in the reviews to know how this hit them. Is it so far in the future that Black and white don't matter? Is that actually what we're going for? Or is the idea to preserve culture while simultaneously promoting equality? I think the answer probably depends on who you ask. I only mention it because I did find the juxtaposition of the white male author and the Black female protagonist a little jarring. People have good imaginations and can write their main character as whoever and whatever they way. I like that Rubin chose to make Kenzie Black. But it made me wonder if there should have more significance to that.
Also, I might not have minded quite so much if the Bad Guys were not repeatedly referred to as having "tribal" markings and a "chief" instead of a leader that used some other noun.
This was such a fun read! Reminded me a lot of some other space adventure books and tv series, mostly Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy and Red Dwarf. Likeable characters like Dash the silightly slobby captain and Squix the Octopus who Dash's first mate.
this was really very funny and an entertaining light read the dialogue and the jokes are flowing and yes I laughed out loud several times its definitely in the young adult realm - I will strongly urge my 10 year old to read this highly recommend
I loved the book! The author does a great job of creating flawed, believable characters who you want to see succeed and become better. Plus all that is done with an interesting and compelling backdrop of interstellar society, progress, and conflict. I really hope there will be a follow up story after this one.
Accessible space-based sci-fi! A quick and fun read.
I read Dim Stars as part of a judging team for the second annual Self-Published Science Fiction Competition (SPSFC2), where it is a semifinalist.
This is a book that’s incredibly easy to read, but in order to love it, you’re going to have to connect with the style of humor. Which is the one where every character is terrible (at least to start) and constantly works themselves into trouble on account of being terrible.
It’s a YA book (that probably leans a hair on the young side of YA), so the flavor of terrible here is far from grimdark. You have two perspective characters:
1. An inept, lazy captain whose constant attempts at cutting corners gets him into trouble. 2. A genius teenager who is simultaneously willing to break any rules necessary but also obsessed with people following the law, which sees her constantly take things into her own hands and gets her into trouble.
And the cast is rounded out by:
3. An alien whose entire personality is obsession with social media 4. An alien whose entire personality is taking electronics apart and trying to build new things with them (which again, usually leads to trouble). 5. A medical AI that’s pretty full of himself 6. An octopus who is actually not terrible but has some limitations on account of being an octopus.
Throw them into a small-scale mission, everything goes wrong, they stumble onto a galactic invasion, hijinks ensure. If that’s your jam, you’ll probably love this book.
For me, there was more cringing at the character actions than laughing at them. Which is admittedly a matter of personal taste, but they get pretty over-the-top.
Fortunately, it’s an easy read, and I found it getting more enjoyable in the final third when the plot ramps up and the characters have to buckle down and actually try to work together.
First impression: 12/20. Full review and official SPSFC score to come at www.tarvolon.com
Dim Stars follows Kenzie, an overachieving 14-year-old, who joins a youth cadet immersion program. But this isn't just any run-of-the-mill program. It's a program run and led by none other than her idol, Captain Dash Drake: hero of the Forger war. But Drake's royalties ran out years ago, and he's just trying to make ends meet with his old, rusty cargo ship. After a ship malfunction, the crew is attacked and finds themselves on the run with little funds and even less gas. What started as a boring summer gig soon turns into a life and death chase across the galaxy.
The shenanigans start and they don't stop. This was such a fun romp through space! I found myself laughing more times than not, which is honestly a rare thing for me with books. The worldbuilding and lingo used are minimal, so I consider this is a beginner-friendly science fiction read. It gave me major 90s animated movie vibes because of the humor and witty banter. I loved how determined Kenzie was to save the galaxy and Dash is just left chasing after her making sure she doesn't get everyone killed. One of my favorite characters was an octopus, so that's a first. This book gave a much needed break from the seriousness of life, and I'll always appreciate an author that can do that.
I highly recommend this for fans of: lighthearted reads, YA sci-fi, space operas, fast-paced stories, humorous space shenanigans, witty banter, and underdog stories.
I wasn't feeling well (bit of a stomach trouble) and I remembered that this novel was supposed to be a light-hearted fun. And it was indeed fun and filled with humor that had me clutching my stomach in pain from laughing every page.
I especially enjoyed the slice-of-life feel in the first half of the novel. Some characters stood out right from the start and some grew to be likeable as the events progressed.
Humor is hit or miss with me, I enjoyed most of them while a few were a bit uncomfortable for me (but I could still appreciate how it'd be funny). Kept imagining how the dialogues would pan out as a live-action movie, thought it would be great and it helped me feel more immersed while reading too.
The pacing was steady to start with, became more faster paced when action started. While I liked the second half, I would've enjoyed more if the novel stayed low-stakes.
Another plus point I'd say was the foreshadowing, especially those that played out humorously in multiple scenes. Even the chapter titles played in a role!
This is another book I bought via a Twitter recommendation. (Yes, Virginia, you can sell books via Twitter.) It's really an amusing romp.
We first meet Captain Dashiell "Dash" Drake. He's running a tramp starship freighter and not doing a good job of it, even though he's a famous war hero. Kenzie Washington, a 14-year-old child prodigy, idolizes him and has memorized his (ghost-written) autobiography. She, plus a couple of aliens made of living stone, have signed up for a "real cadet experience" on Drake's ship. They are supposed to be grunt crewmembers who have paid for that privilege.
This being an adventure novel, nothing goes to plan. Dash, Kedzie and the other cast of misfits must save the galaxy from the evil Forgers. They do so in an engaging and humorous way, allowing the novel to earn it's subtitle of "outer-space shenanigans." One example - somebody asks if another character is nuts. The reply? "She's pistachios with some pecans for good measure."
This is marketed as YA, but it's highly enjoyable for all ages.