Friday 2 June 2017

Defy the Stars

Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray (Allen and Unwin)  PB RRP $19.99
ISBN 9781471406362

Reviewed by Daniela Andrews

‘She’s learned how to fight. Next she has to learn how to die.’

Noemi, a seventeen-year-old soldier from the planet Genesis, has three weeks to live. Her assignment to strike and destabilise the gateway to her planet will buy her people time in the war against Earth … at the cost of her own life. When Noemi veers off-course during a sudden attack from Earth, she discovers an abandoned ship with somebody onboard: Abel. A robot.

Abel is the long-lost creation of Burton Mansfield, an Earth-residing scientist whom some believe is a genius, others evil. The only ‘A’ model mech he’s ever created, Abel’s skill and cognitive reasoning is outstanding but his 30 years of isolation have produced a flaw in his programming. He has developed an ability to feel. When Abel reveals he knows how to destroy the Genesis Gate, Noemi orders him to help her secure the required items before she sends him to his death at the gate. (He is only a mech, after all.) But as they traverse the universe, and form a loyal alliance, Noemi feels uneasy about destroying him. Plus, the more she learns about the other planets the less she agrees with her home planet’s choices.

This is a fast-paced, gripping read by bestselling YA author, Claudia Gray. Noemi and Abel’s stories are told in alternating chapters in third-person perspective, and the progression of their relationship is fascinating. Abel’s near-human conscience constantly grapples with Noemi’s orders and his loyalty to Mansfield, providing much suspense in the story as to how he will act. Abel undergoes quite an existential battle as he tries to understand the motives behind Noemi and Mansfield’s opposing requests and behaviours. When caught in a terrorist attack, he:
‘… finds it hard to comprehend that humans don’t share the same directives he does. That their innermost beings don’t demand that they help protect one another’s lives. Shouldn’t that matter to a human even more than it does to a mech?’

The book is suitable for science fiction fans aged 12–18 years, but I believe it will appeal to a wider and older audience also. Outside of its planetary attacks, galactic descriptions and battleship commands is an enthralling relationship between two engaging characters … and a heartrending moral reflection on human nature.

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