These Broken Stars – Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner

It’s a night like any other on board the Icarus. Then, catastrophe strikes: the massive luxury spaceliner is yanked out of hyperspace and plummets to the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive. And they seem to be alone.

Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a young war hero who learned long ago that girls like Lilac are more trouble than they’re worth. But with only each other to rely on, Lilac and Tarver must work together, making a tortuous journey across the eerie, deserted terrain to seek help.

Then, against all odds, Lilac and Tarver find a strange blessing in the tragedy that has thrown them into each other’s arms. Without the hope of a future together in their own world, they begin to wonder – would they be better off staying in this place forever?

Everything changes when they uncover the truth behind the chilling whispers that haunt their every step. Lilac and Tarver may find a way off this planet. But they won’t be the same people who landed on it.

I wasn’t going to get a copy of this book initially – I’d glanced at the blurb in my local bookstore a couple of times but sounded too similar to Beth Revis’s Across the Universe for my liking. Last week I had an hour to kill at my library volunteer job and a shiny Nexus tablet to play with. These Broken Stars was promoted in Google Play so I downloaded a sample and was sucked in by Tarver and Lilac almost immediately and bought a hard copy in my lunch break!

This is a story about survival, courage, love and fighting for what you want. I really liked the way Tarver and Lilac’s relationship developed over the narrative. When Lilac and Tarver first meet they are clearly attracted to each other but there is no instalove. Instead they are set against each other, initially because of their wildly differing positions in society and later by their own pride. As Lilac and Tarver begin to work together they each gain the other’s respect and THEN fall in love.

With that blurb you’d be forgiven for thinking that Lilac spends the whole time rocking a damsel in distress thing (and that does happen for a little while after the crash landing) but Tarver and Lilac both have strengths and weaknesses which round them out well as the novel progresses. Love me some developed protagonists! They both want to protect the other one but from different threats and it manifests in different ways in both of them.

Another bonus: Australian author! Well, Amie Kaufman specifically. She’s a Melbourne native but I can forgive her for that. 😉 I love learning that books I love are written by locals!

This probably would have been a 4.5 or 5 star rating if it hadn’t been for the ending. Explanation will be a little vague here to avoid spoilers so I’m sorry about that! I wasn’t a real fan of the last few chapters, particularly the planet’s inhabitants and how the final problem Lilac and Tarver face on the planet is solved. It’s a little bit rushed and doesn’t really make a lot of sense with the rest of what the reader knows about the world. I also wasn’t entirely happy with the Icarus crash in the first place – the book never really gives us a reason for it. I can come up with a few guesses but, again, spoilers! Wish my friends would read this so I had someone to discuss it with! Haha.

Kaufman and Spooner have a trilogy in the works for this world but it looks like they’ll be companion novels rather than direct sequels. You can check out the info on the upcoming novel This Shattered World here. It introduces two new characters: Jubilee Chase and Flynn Cormac and is due in November.

Rating: 4 stars

Similar Reads: Across the Universe by Beth Revis, Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi.

These Broken Stars was published in 2013 by Allen & Unwin. ISBN: 978-1-74331-852-2.

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Directive 51 – John Barnes

Set in mid 2020’s USA, Directive 51 opens with protagonist Heather O’Grainne investigating a social phenomenon known as ‘Daybreak’. Made up with people from all walks of life and beliefs, united by their desire to take down what they call the ‘Big System’, Daybreak is about to become a terrible reality. With civilisation rapidly collapsing as biotes and nanoswarm devour anything plastic or electronic, the US government struggles to minimise the damage and maintain control.

This isn’t just Heather’s story though; Directive 51 is told from a large number of perspectives. The reader gets a feel for what’s going on around the USA, from both sides of the conflict, but it means the story feels fragmented and, particularly in the first third of the novel, very slow to get going. It also made it kind of difficult to engage and empathise with the characters as they are pretty one-dimensional for a while. I did become invested in a few of them by the end of the novel.

The writing is dense and has a serious amount of unnecessary exposition going on (not helped by the small print in my paperback copy) so it took me a while to get through this novel. Realistically it could have been a much shorter novel (and a better one for it). It’s also very heavy on the US Constitution – most of the conflict in Directive 51 isn’t to do with Daybreak and the end of the world as we know it but with issues surrounding the continuance of government. If that kind of novel bores you to tears, I suggest you give this one a miss.

I did enjoy the sci-fi side of Directive 51, particularly how the world begins to adjust to a post-Daybreak life and technology level though, of course, some manage better than others. Being a big fan of disaster movies, I love a good apocalypse scenario and the sudden and catastrophic failure of things like plastic and electronics is a great one. I really liked the premise of Directive 51 but the overall execution wasn’t the best, sadly.

Despite my expectations, the ending left me wanting to know what happens in the rest of the series. I get the feeling that my favourite characters are never going to catch a break but that’s the point in an end of the world thriller I guess. Whether or not I actually pick up Daybreak Zero remains to be seen.

Rating: 2.5 stars.

Similar Reads: Black Monday by R. Scott Reiss (also listed as Bob Reiss).

Directive 51 was published in 2010 by Penguin Group. ISBN : 978-0-441-02041-6.