Sunday, January 27, 2013

Glow review

by Amy Kathleen Ryan
St. Martin's Griffin
September 2011

First line: "The other ship hung in the sky like a pendant, silver in the ether light cast by the nebula."

This book had so many things that I liked about it. It takes place in a generation starship, designed for over a century long journey to a new world. Just after this first line, setting up what an amazing world readers find themselves in - stars! spaceships! nebula! -- the female protagonist, 15 year old Waverly Marshall, says, "Our ships are so ugly." Ah, I love it! It's just another boring old day on the starship for them.

Waverly and her friend Kieran are the first generation to be born aboard the Empyrean, a secular farming ship. Everyone is curious and concerned to meet up with another starship, the New Horizon which should be light years ahead of them.

There are a lot of interesting controversial topics tackled in this book: religion, infertility, and gender roles. Waverly finds the society on her spaceship vaguely misogynistic... pushy Kieran appears to be a shoe-in for taking over as Captain of the ship one day, and he's eager to marry Waverly and start a family. Waverly, on the other hand, just doesn't feel ready to settle down... and she's also kind of intrigued by Seth, a moody loner.

I thought this might be a simple love-triangle is space story until the real twist in the plot happened - the New Horizon forcibly boards the Empyrean and kidnaps young girls, Waverly among them, hoping to solve their fertility problem. As disgusting as this is, I kind of felt sympathy for the crew members of the New Horizon. They are portrayed as genuinely nice people in a very tough situation. And, [spoiler alert!!!] I was relieved that they don't want to force the girls to become pregnant... rather, they just want to harvest their eggs. Waverly does a great job of organizing the girls once they find themselves on the ultra-religious sister starship and fighting to get their way back to the Empyrean.

As much as I could compare this to various books, I actually was reminded of pretty much every episode of the reimagined Battlestar Galactica, where questions of the survival of the human race and the place of religion in their society ranked very highly. Glow also brought to mind two episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation that dealt with this kind of problem. In When the Bough Breaks - a group of infertile colonists kidnap children from the Enterprise and in Up the Long Ladder, a group of infertile colonists steal DNA from the Enterprise to hopefully clone new crew members with.

With plenty of action and sudden surprises, Glow ends on a bit of a cliffhanger. I can't wait to lay my hands on the sequel, Spark.

Compare to:
Inside Out - Maria V. Snyder
Across the Universe - Beth Revis
Birthmarked - Caragh M. O'Brien

I purchased a copy of this book.


  1. I was taken completely by surprise how much I liked this book. I don't read much science fiction/space stuff, but I was pretty engrossed with this one from the first chapter.

    Like you, I was also relieved that the kidnaping of the girls and young women was, though terrible, less nefarious than I thought it would be.

  2. Thanks for the introduction to, Glow. It sounds like a fun book for some of my older students.



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