Earth Star (book 2) by Janet Edwards (book review).

November 27, 2013 | By | Reply More

Big dangers and problems face any author of a trilogy. Many know exactly where the story began and what will happen at the end but the journey of getting there is fraught. In some cases, the middle book sags badly. Partly this is because it is daunting to contemplate the physical length of such a project, partly because ideas have changed during the production of the first book. First novels of all kinds often have a polish that publishing time-scales don’t allow for subsequent volumes, leaving a reader disappointed. Occasionally, the author becomes too enthusiastic about their creation and runs off at a tangent. Fortunately, Janet Edwards has a tight control on what she intends to do. The follow-up to her debut novel, ‘Earth Girl’, does not disappoint.

EarthStar

This YA trilogy, of which ‘Earth Star’ is the second volume, is set on a far future Earth. Jarra is an eighteen year-old who has been obsessive about history and archaeology for as long as she can remember, much to the annoyance of her friends who shout her down when she goes into lecture mode. Jarra, though, has everything to prove. Whereas most of Earth’s population has long ago moved out to the stars through a network of portals, she is one of the unlucky ones in that her immune system collapses the moment she leaves Earth’s environs. She is a prisoner of humanity’s home planet. In ‘Earth Girl’, determined to show that she is as good as anyone else, Jarra enrolled in an off-world university as an archaeology student for which the first year is based entirely on Earth. She began with a low opinion of the prejudiced ‘exos’ – her fellow students – and concealed her origins by pretending to be from a military family. Some of her preconceptions were turned on their heads and she ends the volume as a reluctant hero and with an off-world boyfriend.

‘Earth Star’ starts at the beginning of the second term of her course and the class moves to Africa. Jarra has a Twoing contract, it legally allows them to co-habit, with Fian and she expects her life to settle into a quieter, studious period punctuated only by the crises of ordinary life, like the disapproval of Fian’s parents over his choice of partner and the niggling prejudice of a few of her classmates at having an ‘ape’, as the handicapped like Jarra are disparagingly referred to, in their midst. Then without warning, Jarra and Fian are drafted into the military. Granted, Jarra parents and grandparents were military but as a handicapped person she could never serve off-world. They are told that they are being recruited because they have local knowledge. The truth is slightly more complicated. An alien artefact has been discovered and it is heading for Earth.

One of the issues that everyone had to cope with in ‘Earth Girl’ was a Carrington Event. This is an intense period of solar activity the radiation from which interferes with all electrical and electronic equipment. During it, all communications, including the portals, are off-line. Although the major part of the event is over, there are still pulses of disruptive radiation heading for Earth. The military suspect that if the artefact is hostile, it will attack when the systems are disabled. It is Jarra’s knowledge about the huge caverns constructed in Australia in centuries past as the basis for a city that was never occupied, which allows them to evacuate to a safe place all of Earth’s current inhabitants.

Jarra is an exhaustingly enthusiastic character who bounces from situation to situation in that she is a typical teen-ager. She may know a lot about her specialism but she isn’t perfect. As part of their Twoing contract, Fian wants rings which will broadcast to all the legality of their relationship. Jarra is resistant. A childhood incident had instilled a phobia of rings and she has a struggle to overcome it. Later, an incident that leaves both Jarra and Fian badly injured, only advanced medical technology allows them to survive, leaves her with other issues that she has to face. Jarra is a gutsy heroine and stands up for herself but isn’t always right. In some instances, things fall out right with apparent ease but it is well to remember that this is a YA novel and for the category, the amount of disaster is about right.

This is a very enjoyable novel and comes highly recommended. Although it can be read as a standalone, the subtleties of this future world will be understood better if ‘Earth Girl’ is read first.

Pauline Morgan

November 2013

(pub: HarperCollins. 374 page paperback. Price: £ 7.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-00-744350-5)

check out websites: www.voyager-books.co.uk and www.harpercollins.co.uk

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Category: Books, Scifi

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