Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray. Little, Brown and Company, 2017. 512 pages.
Noemi Vidal will die for her country, but an abandoned spaceship and a mysterious mech draw her into a quest that could save Genesis yet threatens to overturn everything she believes.
Reading Level: Young Adults, 16 and up
Recommended for: Ages 16 and up
Noemi Vidal is going to die in three weeks. Abel has been trapped in a spaceship for 30 years. A teenaged fighter pilot, Noemi fights for Genesis. Colonized by Earth, Genesis declared independence and must defend itself from mechanized fighters (mechs), sent by Earth through a gate in the galaxy.
Abel is a mech —a prototype— unlike the mass-produced mechs of earth. Isolation has changed him. He thinks, and almost, maybe, he feels? He wants to watch Casablanca again. Noemi, along with 74 others, will storm the gate. By jamming its technology, they will temporarily buy Genesis time.
Then, a combat skirmish leads Noemi to an abandoned spaceship and, inside, Abel. Noemi is repulsed by mechs; they aren’t human, merely computers. She cannot trust Abel, yet she needs his help. Because Abel knows something that could prevent the Masada run, something that could save Genesis. So a mission and an unlikely truce begin, in a page-turning adventure told alternatively from Noemi and Abel’s perspectives.
Claudia Gray can spin a tale well. Action does not lag, despite the tome length of this novel, and neither does romance. Yet, Gray also raises serious questions. How can we determine life? Who are we to rule if something is human or not? Her story is powerfully pro-life, if a reader is inclined to notice. Courage, bravery, friendship, and morals are emphasized as well as faith. (Noemi believes in God but struggles to have a personal relationship with him.)
Though Defy the Stars ends in a way that could make it a stand-alone novel, it is the first book in a series. We don’t know where the series will go, and due to some YA cautions (see below), Defy the Stars is not for everyone. For a mature science-fiction lover, though, this could be a thoughtful and thoroughly engaging way to finish out summer reading.
Cautions: Language (occasional mild cursing) Sexuality (Abel is anatomically correct, with “pleasure model” functions. He naively propositions Noemi at one point, but she tells him it is against her faith and personal beliefs.) Violence (Occasional intense fighting scenes with mechs who will bleed when wounded/killed.)
Overall Rating: 4 (out of 5)
- Artistic value: 4
- Worldview/moral value: 4