Monday, February 27, 2012

Heading for the Stars

More teen titles with similar themes--is the "next big thing" in teen lit going to be space travel? Could be...judging from two new books about settler ships (and their resident teenagers) heading out from Earth to make a new home for humans. They are Glow, by Amy Kathleen Ryan, and Across the Universe, by Beth Revis. Just like the dystopian societies imagined in Matched and Delirium, these books start with a central (and familiar) premise and resolve it in different ways.
In Across the Universe, there is one ship with two populations, and the story is told alternately by two protagonists, a representative from each group. Elder is from among the people who stayed awake for the entire 300-year trip to Centauri--or rather, he is the most recently born from the generations of people who have lived and died on the ship Godspeed as it hurtles through space. Amy and her parents--valued experts on gene splicing and military matters--were cryogenically frozen and were supposed to sleep in suspension and be awakened just in time to land on their new planet. But 50 years before the end of the trip, Amy's pod is unplugged, and after barely surviving her abrupt awakening, she has to come to terms with shipboard life under a slightly mad tyrant, and work with Elder to discover who is murdering the other frozen passengers.
There are two ships in the version told in Ryan's Glow--the Empyrean and the New Horizon. These ships are in the nature of arks (as in Noah's Ark), sending out the few survivors of a violent battle on Earth to start over on a "New Earth" lightyears away. Waverly and Kieran are 15-year-olds on the Empyrean, and are part of the first generation of people successfully born in space. When the book opens, they are tentatively planning their marriage, as all are required to procreate at a young age to provide children who can carry on the mission. But their predetermined life on Empyrean is disastrously interrupted when the crew of the New Horizon, desperate to arrive on and populate the new planet first (to continue their ideology, which is radically different from that of the crew of the Empyrean), make a move that disrupts the plan and throws everything and everyone into chaos.
These stories took me back to the early writings of sci-fi greats Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein (and so many more). Although these are intended specifically for teens, while their predecessors' books were written for a general audience, these two books owe premise, trappings, and mythology to generations of writers before them. I enjoyed these new writers' "take" on space travel, and look forward to the sequels continuing their tales.

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