To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
It having been much more than a decade since I've read anything else by Paolini -- his dragons were pretty okay -- I came to the idea of reading his adult space opera with mild anticipation.
I mean, sure, it's often true that many writers of fantasy who decide to jump the fence into SF do so brilliantly, so a part of my mind kept thinking of, say, Adrian Tchaikovsky, and I wondered. I wondered hard.
After getting my hands on this book and having started it, I began comparing it to Becky Chambers with a few hints of Iain M. Banks, but as I continued on this quite interesting journey with an already wonderful main character, Kira Navárez, I discovered something really gorgeous. This novel continues on with a single PoV in Kira. Loving her is easy. Falling into the complications of her life as they get rather more complicated -- and epic -- is something of a no-brainer for me.
I mean, the moment that the ex0-biology and exploration segments get to a certain spoilery point that I will keep mum about, it's all COMPLETELY downhill for me. I couldn't stop reading for the life of me. Really. I took the book with me EVERYWHERE and actually growled at everyone I met if they tried to draw my attention way from the book. And it's not like I have a PROBLEM with focusing my attention. I was hooked and it never let up and this is a DOORSTOPPER.
Let's just say that the novel became a huge confetti snowstorm of a classic alien invasion Anime, and combines a literal ton of great classic and modern SF easter eggs in the telling.
Oh, and as for you folks who were worried that a fantasy author might not have the chops for an enormous and very fulfilling SF romp of an adventure, let me just say this: Paolini knows his SF. Take it from someone who has read over 2.2k SF novels and knows his tv and movies. He weaves a great deal of SF tropes reminiscent of Neal Asher and Alaistair Reynolds with his quirky and delightful Becky Chambers crew.
We even get a full-on galactic war, people, with a full resolution in a single standalone novel.
Please, allow me a little squee here. *squees like a little girl* Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Out of several years worth of recent space operas, some of which I really enjoyed and some I even swear by, I think I had the most outright FUN with this one. Some of the others might be more intriguing in the plot, others might have blown me away with the sheer science-magic, but this one touched me deeply while giving me all my darkest wish-fulfillment SF desires in a single delicious Navárez package.
Please don't assume this is an old, tired space opera. Rather, think about the promise, if not the execution, of, say, Babylon 5 or the idea of a Guyver suit (Japanese only) on methamphetamines, and you might get a slight idea about what might be going on here. :)
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