Book Review: Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray

Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Publisher:  Little Brown Books for Young Readers

Summary:   Noemi Vidal is a teen soldier from the planet Genesis, once a colony of Earth that's now at war for its independence. The humans of Genesis have fought Earth's robotic "mech" armies for decades with no end in sight. 

After a surprise attack, Noemi finds herself stranded in space on an abandoned ship where she meets Abel, the most sophisticated mech prototype ever made. One who should be her enemy. But Abel's programming forces him to obey Noemi as his commander, which means he has to help her save Genesis--even though her plan to win the war will kill him. 

Together they embark on a daring voyage through the galaxy. Before long, Noemi begins to realize Abel may be more than a machine, and, for his part, Abel's devotion to Noemi is no longer just a matter of programming.

As I'm a big fan of all things scifi and most definitely all about shows like BSG (Battlestar Galactica) & Humans, I'm likely fairly predisposed to like this book. I'm also one who has accepted that though the tidal wave of YA books is inescapable, those that stand out to me and capture my imagination are few. As an adult, I don't have as much time left on the planet as I did when I was in the YA targeted teenager, so I need to make my reading time really count. Defy the Stars was definitely worth the three days it took me to read it.

Noemi Vidal is winsome and I enjoyed watching her evolve over the course of the story. She begins as a soldier of Genesis who will give her life to save her world & fight any enemy that poses a threat. She ends as a soldier of Genesis who will give her life to save her world & challenge the threat the world has become to itself. The experiences she has in between are what pulled & shaped her and I found it well done. She lost a friend, made more in places unexpected and saw things she never imagined. I enjoyed seeing the worlds on the Loop with her.

And then there's Abel. Skynet should be so lucky. Abel's not just self-aware. Thirty years of accidental isolation have given him unexpected and interesting abilities & characteristics. He's not human but he has humanity. Abel's definitely a person. And he also has some of the best insights and lines in this book while still maintaining sincerity and innocence.

"Some aspects of humanity were programmed very badly." - Abel

Too true and that is on display here. There's a bio-weapon gone awry, terrorist bombings by a cell of Remedy (a loosely connected group opposing Earth's tyranny), planetary disparity & a Nobel Prize winning scientist that is, in my estimation, damned near mad with his long game plan to circumvent mortality. On the upside, we do get to see the best of humanity on display here also and as in life, so it is in books, they are always a welcome surprise & I look forward to seeing more of them in the next book.

Random thoughts & observations:

1) Rare is the book that makes me realize I need to watch a movie but that happened here & I seriously need to check out Casablanca. I think I'd have been more moved by the references herein.

2) I'm all in on the personhood of Abel but I don't know if he's feeling love for Noemi. I mean, what sentient being wouldn't glom onto the first other sentient being they've been around after 30 years of complete isolation? Is this love or (as I'm sure he can feel love) a lack of options? Still, I liked how this thread was handled. Very deft.

3) The Queen mech choosing to remove her upgrade or as Abel put it, "chose to be something instead of someone", didn't quite work for me for reasons having to do with sentience & abilities of mechs not like Abel, as laid out. Still, it's one small thing in a lot of good.

Definitely recommended. If you're like me & don't go for a lot of YA but you do love science fiction, give this one a read.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

Expected publication: April 4th 2017 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

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