Defy The Stars by Claudia Grey
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Format: ARC e-book
I feel the same way about Defy the Stars as I do the Star Wars franchise. I thought it was a fun romp through space but I wasn’t invested much more than that. I will say that Defy the Stars is probably the best sci-fi YA I’ve read, and it’s not normally my genre, so to even say I enjoyed it means a lot.
I’m also not a fan of ‘love is the ultimate rebellion’ as the tag line, because I don’t think this story is primarily a romance, and thank goodness! That being said, let’s get onto the review.
Noemi has signed up for the Masada Run – a suicide mission that will temporarily disable the Gate to Genesis so the attackers from Earth won’t be able to invade. When Noemi’s best friend dies and she finds herself on an enemy ship, she meets Abel, an extremely intelligent organic robot who’s only mission is to obey his creator and destroy anyone that gets in the way. But Abel is more than this as he’s starting to find his humanity while on a crazy adventure with Noemi where they end up visiting all the colonised planets.
I thought the world building was done to the extent it should have been for a first book. Some things felt a little clunky, perhaps, but we needed to know what the different planets were like and the exposition was needed for us to get a sense of how far in the future this is taking place. I’m only a little confused that the terrains that were described were very similar to planets in our solar system e.g. Mars, and Neptune, so I’m not sure what they were renamed if Earth still exists?
Defy the Stars is told in third person so you get equal viewing into Noemi and Abel’s heads. Noemi is headstrong and Abel’s sort of all over the place while he’s trying to adjust to being around a human after thirty years of isolation. I thought they worked well as a team and I their interactions were full of questions as they were filling each other in.
I found the religious elements of Noemi’s character jarring to begin with, just because I’d seen no mention of them in the marketing, but in the end I’m really pleased that Noemi coming to terms with her faith and with God because it gave the plot a new dimension. Religion isn’t something you often see tackled in YA, and even worse, if it is, then a lot of people switch off, but in this space adventure it really made for a change of pace!
As for Abel in general, I thought his development was a little predictable. We know from the beginning that he’s so different from all the other AIs because he has the capacity to feel and there’s only one way that could develop. I thought there could have perhaps been more conflict between Abel and Noemi, as they got on extremely well and apart from their thoughts on the Masada Run, I didn’t think they’re ideologies were polarised enough.
Although, it’s not heavy, there are romantic undertones, and while I still haven’t decided how I feel about having romantic feelings being what makes someone more ‘human’ I know that there’s the opportunity for things to develop in this area. Abel wasn’t a heart throb by any means – he’s a robot… – but there was something endearing to his character, and I’m relieved that nothing happened too quickly. I haven’t read any of Grey’s other works, so I’m not sure if romance is a really big thing in her writing – if it is and you’re expecting that, maybe let yourself down easy, but know that it was for the best.
I’m happy enough to leave this as a standalone, just because I’m not sure about the series’ potential yet. I feel like we’ve left Abel and Noemi in good places, and while they might not be in the same place geographically, I kind of like that if I stop here this doesn’t have to be a romance. But I enjoyed the cinematic aspect of this story, I could really imagine all the chase scenes and when they were walking around in the sewers! Considering, I don’t like sci-fi all that much, Defy The Stars pleasantly surprised me.