I very much screamed when I found out that Christopher Paolini was publishing a new novel. In fact, I tried incredibly hard to get my hands on an ARC of this book. Having loved this author’s work since I was a young girl, there was no question that I needed to read his newest work. For much of my life, since I was 10 years old carrying around what would one day become a very battered copy of Eragon everywhere I went, this man has been a hero of mine. Now twenty-seven, To Sleep in a Sea of Stars was unquestionably a must-read for me.
But Also, Holy Hell Was This LONG
The basic premise of this book is the experience of a young xenobiologist, Kira Navárez, when she finds an alien artifact that changes the course of her life forever. Truthfully, I feel like delving any further into the premise would be to fall dangerously into spoiler territory. The truth is, there’s a lot to this book and I almost feel at a loss as for where to start. I an, at least, say this:
To Sleep in a Sea of Stars was too long.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I love long novels. I can sit for hours reading. Authors who are able to write more and more content for brilliant characters are amazing. In other words, long stories can be wonderful. Much to my dismay, as I journeyed further and further into this one I kept feeling astounded at how much time I’d spent with it and how much time I had still further to go. Hours in and I just stared at it, wondering how I had 60% left of the book to go.
I was proven wrong every time I felt certain the book was about to reach a climax and soon, conclusion. In a sense, it almost felt as though Paolini was trying to drag out his story for no reason. But, at the same time, I also really enjoyed the intricacies of the plot he created. If there’s anything about this story superbly well done, it was the plot. There are so many interwoven pieces to it that you can’t help leaving the book feeling impressed. The plot, by far, is this novel’s greatest strength.
So, if incredible (almost suffocating) length is what I have to pay in order to have a brilliant plot? Hey, I’ll pay it.
Perhaps it’s ironic, but my biggest gripe with To Sleep in a Sea of Stars is the characters. On the one hand, they’re excellent. They have incredible personalities and you have ample time to get to know them. At times, you truly feel like they could be real people. But despite having a brilliant plot and incredibly well-written action sequences, Paolini utterly fails at portraying emotion.
I find it admirable that a massive amount of research went into Paolini’s writing process for this novel. The fact that he wanted to tell a science fiction story with as much scientific accuracy has he could is nothing short of amazing. But, if he’s going to do that much research on science, why the hell couldn’t he do so for psychology?
It’s funny, because he does a little bit with the shipmind,Gregorovitch. What Paolini did here was actually rather impressive (I loved him). And it’s all based around the trauma of isolation. The problem is that it’s so minute in comparison with everything all the other characters go through. The most stark of these issues lies with main character, Kira herself.
What’s Wrong With Kira
Point blank, Kira never truly seems to deal with traumatic events in the way a real person would. As a result, it becomes incredibly difficult to believe that she cares about anything. We’re told that she loves Alan and her team members. We’re told that she cares about a lot of things. Unfortunately, so often I found that the telling of these things came alongside a useless lack of showing. And though it is like this through the whole book, the most egregious comes in the beginning as Kira has almost no true emotional response to an incredibly traumatic loss.
There was absolutely no hatred either for the alien relic that she could have blamed for the event. Nor was there any self-hatred for her role in the event. At times there were brief moments of grief, but even those were glossed over. And it’s not as though Paolini didn’t have time to delve more deeply into potential responses a person might have to such trauma. The book is 880 pages!
But, instead of having his main character react to this event in a realistic and emotional way, he had her briefly freak out, have a few very short moments of sadness, and…become concerned with whether or not she’d ever be able to have sex or masturbate again. I don’t need to point out why this is problematic, do I?
Okay, so the only way I was able to get myself a copy of this book was thanks to the wonderful people at Macmillan Audio who auto approved me for their audiobooks. As it stands, I don’t have a lot to say about the audio other than that it worked well for the story. Jennifer Hale did an excellent job. I have no complaints.
To Wrap Things Up
So, yes. I liked this book.
But, as even Paolini pointed out, it’s not without flaws.
I almost feel as though this would have worked better as a tv show. It would account for the length and result in multiple writers available to address the issues. Namely, the biggest issue being the lack of realistic emotion in 90% of the main character and a good portion of the book. Women would have been (hopefully) involved to decrease the problems that often seem to arise when men write them. And, finally, there would have been previous little (again, hopefully) telling instead of showing.
So, good book? Sure. But it’s got some problems.
I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.