Rating: 4 Stars
Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray is an exhilarating sci-fi novel that explores what it really means to be human. Through clever characterization, well written prose, and a gripping story that keeps you on the edge of your seat; Gray has delivered a thought provoking and entertaining novel sure to please anyone who has ever looked to the future or up at the night sky and dreamed.
Noemi is a soldier of Genesis, willing to lay down her life for her planet in an attempt to give them an advantage in their war against Earth. Abel is the most advanced mech ever built, having been alone, stranded in space for thirty years, his programming seems to have gone a bit awry but he stills wants only to return to his creator. When an unmissable opportunity is presented to Noemi through Able the two of them become unlikely partners in a race against time.
This book surprised me with how much I loved it. Having read Gray’s work before, I went into Defy the Stars with low to middling expectations and wow did it blow all of those expectations out of the water. Set in a world where Earth is dying and desperate to colonize other worlds and where mechs are so advanced they can mimic people almost exactly this book poses some deep questions.
Both of our main characters are dealing with their own moral dilemmas in this book:
Noemi is trying to save hundreds of lives as well as her entire planet but as her horizons expand she is forced to repeatedly stop and question the means she’s using to do so. Noemi is the perfect example of a character who was raised her entire life in what was essentially a bubble and as her world expands so do her opinions on that world. She is a character who believes herself to be one way (prickly, angry, harsh, unlikable) because that’s how the people in her life characterized her, and it isn’t until she’s on her own that she really begins to discover herself. I respected the journey she went on over the course of this book, discovering her best parts, learning to live with her worst, and being strong enough to make the tough decisions and realizations along the way.
Able is a mech but a mech with emotions and his character really tugged on my heart strings. Able has little regard for himself and like Noemi he believes himself to be only what he’s always been told he is. Too human to be like others mechs and not human enough just because he has circuits. Able challenges the idea of what it means to be human, to have a soul. His exploration of self is as moving as it is hilarious. At times he is soldier and at others he is a child but he is always unique and I loved that about him. He was an example of how coming into one’s self is a lifelong journey of learning and exploration. I thought that was just beautiful.
The romance in this book is human\mech but honestly I barely noticed. It’s a light, slow-burn, enemies to friends and then friends to maybe more sort of thing and really it was more existential than sexual. The book is full of humor and wit so clever it ranges from soft chuckling to tears running down your cheeks hilarity. The action is well paced and masterfully written and the world is dynamic and well laid out. I felt a part of the world, like I should be choosing a side and fighting for the future of my planet, and I simply love books that suck me in that way. My biggest criticism would be the writing tense which I found a bit awkward at first but quickly adjusted to.
So overall Defy the Stars was an above average read that made me feel bad for judging it before I read it. I humbly apologize for not being a more open minded reader going into this. Noemi and Able captured my heart, the world captured my imagination, and the underlying message had me thinking long after the last page. I can’t wait to read the sequel and find out what happens next for my favorite human-mech and rebellious Genesis soldier.
Until next time, stay passionate and excelsior!