Monday, May 29, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: Star's End by Cassandra Rose Clarke

Long Review after the Jump:

Star's End is a story which reminds me of several other books - unfortunately, most of those other books have done it better.  The Story takes back largely in flashbacks - 1/3 of the book is in the present day, 2/3 of the book is at various points in the past, with the past sections being told in first person to the present's third person.

-------------------------------Plot Summary----------------------------
Star's End takes place in a future where Corporations control whole star systems and act as governments, using private military forces as their armed forces.  Moreover, humanity has discovered treatments that allow people to stop aging, and maybe live forever.  Phillip Coromina is the head of the Coromina corporation and several hundred years old, and the de facto ruler of the Four Sisters, a system of four terraformed moons (around a gaseous planet).  Except, as his daughter Esme finds out to start the story, he is now dying.

Phillip asks Esme, his heir, to find his three estranged other daughters (Esme's half-sisters).  But Esme's half-sisters have long since fled and hidden themselves, due to a horrible act Phillip has committed in the past.  Moreover, they don't want to see Esme, who they view as having cooperated with these actions.  Esme now seeks out her sisters, to try and rekindle their relations and make up for her own mistakes, but can she really make up for those mistakes as the head of the very corporation which caused them?

Mild Spoilers here, but this book reminded me a lot in some ways of Seth Dickinson's The Traitor Baru Cormorant. Like Baru, in this book Esme attempts to change the Corporation from within, and as such is complicit in its horrible actions.  Unlike Baru, the horrible actions occurred mainly when she had no power, and she passively acquiesced to those actions rather than speaking up (Baru by contrast is anything but Passive).  Moreover, unlike Baru, this story does seem to end with an idea that changing the evil from within is a possible and worthwhile goal.

That's an interesting idea!  But well, the book doesn't EARN that conclusion.  With the story structure spending most of its time in the past setting up the horrible actions that resulted in Esme's family being torn apart (and it does this SLOWLY), there is very little time spent on showing whether Esme is right or will be successful in her actions.  The story just sort of accepts that she will be, without ever showing us why (and oddly, it DOES show that the obstacles exist from her succeeding earlier on in the book, it just ignores those).

It doesn't help that the story keeps hinting at what the status quo is in the present due to the actions in the past, with this becoming fairly underwhelming as a reveal when it finally occurs, and then the reveal being basically tossed aside REALLY quickly.  The characters in the book are solid - really just Esme is developed, but she's a nice voice - but man, is this book a let down with how it develops.  You could argue this is also a book about the relations of sisterhood I guess, but this theme isn't developed very well either.  In the end, Star's End reads well and has otherwise interesting ideas, but otherwise, not that recommended.

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