Author: Brandon Sanderson
Series: Skyward #2
Published: Gollancz (November 26, 2019)
Pages: 468 (Hardcover)
So I don’t know how Sanderson continues to shock and amaze me with his plot twists, but he does. Every. Single. Time. Starsight is a brilliant book from start to finish, and I can’t wait to see where the story takes us next.
“A hero does not choose her trials. She steps into the darkness. Then she faces what comes next.”
Starsight is the second book in a YA Science Fiction/Space Opera series about a planet full of humans who are stranded and constantly under threat of attack from alien ships. Our main character Spensa is a wannabe pilot, who also happens to be the daughter of the most famous deserter in DDF history. Which is especially bad given that the people of Detritus value courage and bravery above all else. The first book in the series follows Spensa’s attempts to join the flight school and find her place among her peers. And, in the second we see Spensa grappling with the implications of her abilities and hoping find a way to finally allow her people to escape Detritus and life spent constantly at war.
“So, you’re worried about what?” M-Bot said. “That your shadow might take your place?” “No,” I whispered. “I worry that I’m already the shadow.”
If you loved Skyward, I think you’ll love Starsight too. It has the same feel, but it ups the stakes considerably. Spensa is still a hothead with an impulse control issue, but she’s trying. Her motivations are a sincere desire to help her people. And maybe, prove herself too. It was nice to see that the lessons she learned in the first book have stuck with her, but that she still has room to grow. Her arc continues to feel natural and authentic. And Sanderson does a fantastic job of exploring this expanded world/galaxy through Spensa’s eyes and thus taking us along or the ride. It allowed things to be explained and revelations to happen slowly, but still pack a big punch.
I loved the discussions about what it means to be alive and to have humanity. M-Bot is constantly grappling with his own humanity and aliveness. Is he just a machine? A computer program? A person? Is he actually making his own choices or just following the dictates of his coding? We learn about several new alien species in this second book, and I really liked the ideological questions that raised.
“Not that there’s anything wrong with humans. I find their frail, emotionally unstable, irrational natures quite endearing.”
This is certainly an action packed space opera, but it is also the story of a young girl who is just trying to figure out the world. It’s about people making the best choices they can with the information they have, and dealing with the consequences of the choices made by those who came before them. It’s about recognizing our inherent prejudices and the dangers of being instantly suspicion of those who are different. And realizing that species/races are not a monolith. All of these themes are woven in with Spensa’s and M-Bot’s character growths and the plot so seamlessly that, while they are incredibility relevant to the current political climate, they didn’t feel heavy handed. They just feel like a natural progression of the story.
“That’s what war is,” Cobb told me. “A bunch of sorry, desperate fools on both sides, just trying to stay alive. That’s the part that those stories you love leave out, isn’t it? It’s always more convenient when you can fight a dragon. Something you don’t have to worry you’ll start caring about.”
Starsight is easily the best sci-fi book I’ve read this year. It’s got intense fight sequences, political maneuverings, complex relationship dynamics, and an ending that left me reeling.