Vale of Stars, by Sean O’Brien
“Jene Halfner awaits the end of a hundred-year-long, deep-space colonization journey begun by her ancestors generations before. She has spent her life preparing for
planetfall on Epsilon Eridani III, taking care of the growing number of victims of interstellar radiation aboard Ship. What
she will find upon arrival will change her perspective on life, and she and her
descendants will live to face the incredible challenges their new world holds.
As generations pass, the women of the Halfner line uncover stunning secrets about their original mission, their new home on
Epsilon Eridani III, and the future of the human race. Secrets that will challenge what they believe in, who they trust, and their perception of the ones the love.
I received Vale of Stars as an early reviewer on LibraryThing.
I thought it was an interesting and enjoyable novel which struck a nice balance between the intrigue of space travel, the adventure of new worlds, and the predictability of human nature – with a twist of genetics thrown in.
One thing that I wasn’t overly fond of was the way that the generation jumps that occurred, about four times in the narrative in all, took you away from the story just when you started to feel comfortable with the characters. That being said, I did find this device to have been relatively well executed, with enough references to the earlier generation(s) to hold the thread together. In all honesty I found Jene and Sirra far more likeable than Yallia (Kuarta’s character I felt was too shallow and quick a stop on the way for me to really invest), but that may have been a deliberate contrivance by the author and reflected the differing circumstances each found themselves in. Yallia was very much a figure representing change and transition, with her rage unsettling her and her time. The others were at different ends of the spectrum of change and therefore easier to enjoy as characters. The jumps were also a good way to advance the story to its ultimate conclusion.
Whilst not necessarily a novel tale at its most base level, it certainly had enough interesting elements built on this foundation which elevated it above a typical colonisation tale, and at times was thought provoking. It might be said that the overall message, or perhaps warning, of the novel was sometimes a little heavy-handed, but nevertheless it never entirely subsumed the story so as to make it unreadable. I found it to be a genuine page turner and was disappointed when it had ended. A sign of a good read.
Rounding up the critique, there is an awful lot in the story struggling for attention. Moreover there are one or two threads which seem a little out-of-place, and elements of the story and characters which were not so well sketched out and so did not sit so well with the rest. For example, the apparent socialist bent of the colonists was never truly explained or explored, and the evolution and ultimate purpose of the flight team was frankly as unexplained as it was baffling.
The very real feeling the story leaves you with is that it is desperate to mean something, but realises that it has to tell a story and so its message is constrained. This apparent tension pervades the writing to some extent, but in no way spoils the story.
Overall I found any issues that I might have with the book in no way acted to the detriment of the reading pleasure or the enjoyment I got from the story.
Put simply I really enjoyed Vale of Stars and give it a solid four stars.
Get it on Amazon now. Also available in paperback.