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SKYWARD **

Written by Brandon Sanderson. RRP: £18.99 528pp

Out now from Gollancz.

 

The world of young adult, female-led dystopian fiction raises its head once more with Brandon Sanderson’s SKYWARD, a story that contains shades of The Last Starfighter, Battlestar Galactica, and Ender’s Game.

 

Set on a distant and remote planet which is surrounded by a vast field of debris that prevents escape we find a pocket of humanity who have been marooned here for generations. Our heroine, Spensa, dreams of being a pilot and fighting against the Krell, an alien race who for an unknown reason prevent humanity from leaving the planet and repeatedly attack from above. Spensa also seeks redemption for her father, a once great pilot who suddenly abandoned his comrades in the act of sudden cowardice. An act which ended fatally and has tainted Spensa in the eyes of her fellow humans and more importantly the pilot’s academy which she dreams of joining.

 

The theme of standing up to and questioning of authority is a common one in young adult fiction that can pay dividends but Sanderson never really uses it to get to grips with the story or the characters here. Suzanne Collin’s Hunger Games and Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series explored such themes, both with a young female protagonist, to a much greater and harrowing effect. Skyward feels like it is aimed at a much younger audience who perhaps may not be fully ready to explore notions of combat and sacrifice. The mostly teenage cast suffer casualties and psychologically too but always in a manner that is mainly brushed away within a couple of chapters. The threat of annihilation is never explored; the stakes should be significant but Spensa’s inner monologue is either blissfully unaware, or Sanderson feels no need to look into such a matter.

 

Sanderson’s prose is zippy although his dialogue can sometimes come across as forced, especially when trying to be humorous and snarky, but his handling of action, which is often on a large scale here, always paints a clear picture in the reader's eye. His descriptions of the various ships and the physics and engineering employed to pilot them also come across clearly, aided by the technical illustrations that are peppered throughout the book.

 

At over five hundred pages this is a lengthy volume. What at first seems like a compelling case of world building, including the different classes of society and the roles they are forced into is soon abandoned altogether. Instead, we are treated to repetitive scenes of Spensa’s training, which take up a large part of the story offering little in the way of story or character development. The characters too come across as a cliched bunch; there is the gruff instructor who turns out to have a softer, understanding side, the handsome and rich class rival who turns out to have a softer, understanding side and the sneering head of the academy who turns out to have a softer, understanding side.

 

A late in the game revelation ramps up the intrigue as well as a secret side to Spensa that could possibly take the series in an interesting direction. This volume, however, feels like an early draft that somehow escaped the process of editing and refining that could have turned it into a much more effective introductory entry.

 

Iain MacLeod

 

 

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SKYWARD **

Written by Brandon Sanderson. RRP: £18.99 528pp

Out now from Gollancz.

 

The world of young adult, female-led dystopian fiction raises its head once more with Brandon Sanderson’s SKYWARD, a story that contains shades of The Last Starfighter, Battlestar Galactica, and Ender’s Game.

 

Set on a distant and remote planet which is surrounded by a vast field of debris that prevents escape we find a pocket of humanity who have been marooned here for generations. Our heroine, Spensa, dreams of being a pilot and fighting against the Krell, an alien race who for an unknown reason prevent humanity from leaving the planet and repeatedly attack from above. Spensa also seeks redemption for her father, a once great pilot who suddenly abandoned his comrades in the act of sudden cowardice. An act which ended fatally and has tainted Spensa in the eyes of her fellow humans and more importantly the pilot’s academy which she dreams of joining.

 

The theme of standing up to and questioning of authority is a common one in young adult fiction that can pay dividends but Sanderson never really uses it to get to grips with the story or the characters here. Suzanne Collin’s Hunger Games and Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series explored such themes, both with a young female protagonist, to a much greater and harrowing effect. Skyward feels like it is aimed at a much younger audience who perhaps may not be fully ready to explore notions of combat and sacrifice. The mostly teenage cast suffer casualties and psychologically too but always in a manner that is mainly brushed away within a couple of chapters. The threat of annihilation is never explored; the stakes should be significant but Spensa’s inner monologue is either blissfully unaware, or Sanderson feels no need to look into such a matter.

 

Sanderson’s prose is zippy although his dialogue can sometimes come across as forced, especially when trying to be humorous and snarky, but his handling of action, which is often on a large scale here, always paints a clear picture in the reader's eye. His descriptions of the various ships and the physics and engineering employed to pilot them also come across clearly, aided by the technical illustrations that are peppered throughout the book.

 

At over five hundred pages this is a lengthy volume. What at first seems like a compelling case of world building, including the different classes of society and the roles they are forced into is soon abandoned altogether. Instead, we are treated to repetitive scenes of Spensa’s training, which take up a large part of the story offering little in the way of story or character development. The characters too come across as a cliched bunch; there is the gruff instructor who turns out to have a softer, understanding side, the handsome and rich class rival who turns out to have a softer, understanding side and the sneering head of the academy who turns out to have a softer, understanding side.

 

A late in the game revelation ramps up the intrigue as well as a secret side to Spensa that could possibly take the series in an interesting direction. This volume, however, feels like an early draft that somehow escaped the process of editing and refining that could have turned it into a much more effective introductory entry.

 

Iain MacLeod

 

This web site is owned and published by London FrightFest Limited.

FrightFest is the registered trade mark of London FrightFest Limited.
 © 2000 - 2018