Be ‘Starbound’ with me

I have multiple issues with the Starbound series: The first book takes forever to get to the point, the characters in the second one are underdeveloped and I’m not a fan of how the aliens hijack the plot in the third volume. Even as my complaints piled up, I found I could not stop reading.

The young adult series by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner grabbed me from the very first scene: a Victorian gala set aboard a spaceliner. Top hats, corsets and a view of the stars as they streak by in hyperspace.

The lovers in the first book (and all the books center around a pair of boy-girl lovers) are almost caricatures of themselves: the low-born boy falling for the unreachable girl, the girl who has everything but freedom to love. But thankfully, once the spaceliner crashes and throughout the rest of the series, YA gender tropes are turned on their heads: the princess sacrifices herself for the prince; the girl is the soldier, the boy the peacenik; and it’s the boy who falls in love at first sight while the girl remains skeptical. For all that I couldn’t stop seeing it’s faults, I appreciated this about the series.

There are not many science fiction young adult novels out on the shelves these days. Plenty of dystopia and speculative fiction, but few that take place in actual space and Kaufman and Spooner leave no classic sci-fi scene untouched. There’s an abandoned planet evolving in strange ways, a warzone between colonial rebels and their terraforming Companies, a city that spans a planet and your standard post-apocalyptic destroyed city. The action never lets up, even when it feels the writers are just throwing obstacles in their way to keep up the tension without adding to the plot.

The Starbound series was equally annoying, admirable and enjoyable but the point is that I kept reading — isn’t that what we all want on these long, dark nights? Something that keeps you enrapt through three volumes and 1,189 pages? And so I recommend this series to anyone who wants to fly away into an unknown galaxy for a while.

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