Thursday, October 20, 2011

Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan

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.

I was looking forward to this book because there aren’t that many YA stories set in a spaceship, and the possibilities are endless. Plus, the fertility issues hinted in the summary above sounded intriguing. So I happily settled into the story.

The first third is fantastic. I liked the characters, the conflict was intense, and the pacing was spot on. In fact, it only took an hour to get a third of the way through the book because I could not put it down.

Then, things took a bit of a turn, leaving me scratching my head in many places. A few characters seem to transform inexplicably, from normal to something near insane, and their motivations aren’t clear. There were a few instances where information was withheld (such as the situation surrounding Waverly’s dad and Seth’s mom), probably to heighten tension and pique the reader’s interest. But all it really did was make these characters less understandable and unsympathetic. I needed to know what was driving the characters, but that was never made clear. As a result, their actions felt contrived. By the end of the story, I didn’t like any of them anymore.

I also had issues with some aspects of the plot. Much of it didn’t make sense. For example, if a scientist is smart enough to figure out how manipulate the number of eggs released from an ovary, he’s smart enough to recognize the potential for inbred genetic issues down the road. Unless they monitor future generations with an insane zeal, they're going to have an extremely difficult time keeping half-brothers and sisters from inter-marrying.

Also, many of the characters are middle-aged with atrophied muscles. They break out in a sweat by simply carrying a dinner tray, or even walking down a hallway. Because of this, there is no way they’d be able to fire a gun with any kind of control. It takes a lot of strength to keep the kickback from knocking you on your butt, especially with the higher caliber weapons. But they fire several rounds, with no repercussions. This pulled me out of the story on several occasions because the scenes felt contrived.

The last thing I want to look at is how incredibly dark this book is. I actually like dark books a lot. I love a book that can really ‘go there’ and get to the heart of difficult and uncomfortable concepts and issues. There are plenty of difficult and uncomfortable concepts in this book, but they are a bit confusing. I think the author was trying to show both sides of the coin regarding religion, but the end result wasn’t as clear as it could have been. This is partly due to the lack of connection to the characters. If we don’t understand what is driving them, then we can’t understand where they are taking us.

The conversation between Seth and Waverly at the end really illustrates this. Waverly’s actions are somewhat understandable, considering what she’s been through. But Seth’s aren’t. In fact, it shows just how little he’s learned, and how manipulative and ruthless (borderline sociopathic) he is. And I still don’t understand why he is this way. I don't really want to spend any more time with these characters because their actions don't provoke any sympathy from me. Perhaps the next book will be better.


Matthew MacNish said...

Interesting. Good to know.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Thanks for sharing this. I've heard mixed reviews about GLOW though it is on my TBR list.

Catherine Stine said...

Amy's writing is top notch.

Kelly Hashway said...

Hmm, this isn't really my type of book. It's strange though how you enjoyed the beginning so much and were let down after that. I've read a lot of books that were slow starters and picked up later, not the other way around.

Tabitha said...

Matthew - if you give it a try, I'd love to know your thoughts.

Natalie - if character motivation isn't a high priority for you, and if you like a fast-paced, action-packed adventure, then you might like this story. But if you need to connect with and fully understand the characters, this might not be the story for you.

Catherine - I saw your name in the acknowledgements section, so I'm guessing Amy is a friend of yours. :) This book just wasn't my cup of tea. I wish it had been.

Kelly - yeah, that doesn't happen often. Not like this, anyway. I stuck with it because I liked the first third so much. The characters were relatable, sympathetic, and interesting. Which made it that much more difficult for me when the story took a left turn and didn't come back... :(