Sunday, March 17, 2013

Review: Glow

It speaks a lot of a book when I can't even get through the entire audiobook without being a)bored, b)offended, and/or c)annoyed. Congratulations Glow, you accomplished all three things.
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In the future, two ships are sent from our dying Earth, the New Horizon and the Empyrean, to colonize New Earth. Midway through the journey, the Empyrean unexpectedly attacks the New Horizon, separating Waverly, a strong-minded girl of 15, and Kiernan, her fiance and the likely successor to the Captain's chair. Waverly is held hostage aboard the Empyrean, told that the New Horizon was destroyed and that she must integrate into her new life. Kiernan, meanwhile, is aboard the New Horizon, which suffers much damage to their engines, but is still flying. He battles against odds to rescue the crew trapped in the engine room, but Seth, Waverly's former crush, thwarts him at every step, turning the remaining children against Kiernan.

From the get-go, I was annoyed with the narration. Chapters alternate between Waverly and Kiernan, and the audiobook has two narrators to help complete the effect. Their voices, however, don't belong together. Kiernan, voiced by Matthew Brown, uses a high-pitched, child-like sounding voice, which gets incredibly grating when it seems he's constantly fighting with the other boys on the New Horizon. Waverly's narrator, Ilyana Kadushin, is lower pitched and steadier. I found myself cringing whenever it changed to Kiernan.

The part that offended is a basic premise of the plot. The New Horizon and Empyrean populations were separated according to their religious beliefs. Those on the Empyrean are religious and believe in God, while those on the New Horizon are secular. This premise leads to the fact that those on the Empyrean attach the New Horizon because of their religious conviction. The moral of the story (I'm sure, like I said, I can't listen any more), is that those who misuse religious authority for their personal gain and glory, or to manipulate those around them are evil. While the moral is true, the execution, and, as I said, the premise is weak. There isn't a rational reasoning behind why you would segregate those two groups of people, especially for the decades it would take to reach New Earth.

As a person of faith, I grew tired of their depiction of religious attitudes. Having traveled the world a bit, I have run into more people than not who believe that faith and religion are a personal choice. Especially here in Bangladesh, where the Shabagh Square protests have morphed into a battle between secularism and the more radical Islam preached by followers of Jamaat (read here for a little background), I was tired by the trope that religious factions could overtake populations that do not support them. Really, what offended me was that basic premise that we would separate ourselves like that. Maybe it's because I'm from America, and we believe in religious freedom,* or maybe it's because I'm religious and I believe that human beings are inherently good and deserve the benefit of the doubt, but either way, I didn't care for the topic.

Don't own this for the library, and I probably wouldn't get it because of the content (you think I'm conservative? Try some of our parents), but also because there are better dystopian science fiction novels out there, that I think my students would enjoy more.

LibraryThing Review:

In the future, Earth is dying. Two ships are sent out on a decades long journey to colonize New Earth and continue the human race. Waverly, a strong-minded 15-year-old and her fiance Kiernan, the likely successor to the Captain's chair, were born and raised on the New Horizon. They know nothing of violence or need, as their every care is provided for on their home ship. Their lives are forever altered when their sister ship, the Empyrean, attacks without warning and separates the two. Waverly is held hostage aboard the Empyrean, told that the New Horizon was destroyed and that she must integrate into her new life. Kiernan, meanwhile, is aboard the New Horizon, where he battles against odds to rescue the crew trapped in the engine room,  trying to reunite the two ships and the families who were stolen
Glow, the first in the Sky Chasers series by Amy Kathleen Ryan, combines elements of dystopia and science fiction with the very real situations presented by first love, loss, and being ripped away form everything you know and love. Where Glow falters is in the basic premise, which is shaky and unconvincing. The addition of  a love triangle seems unnecessary and contrived, which distracts from the otherwise solid storytelling. Glow is recommended for YA readers in grades 7 and above.


*Even though we sometimes don't seem to follow that ideal. I know what's portrayed in the 24-hour media, but I also have lived

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