My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Goodreads: What if you were bound for a new world, about to pledge your life to someone you'd been promised to since birth, and one unexpected violent attack made survival—not love—the issue?
Out in the murky nebula lurks an unseen enemy: the New Horizon. On its way to populate a distant planet in the wake of Earth's collapse, the ship's crew has been unable to conceive a generation to continue its mission. They need young girls desperately, or their zealous leader's efforts will fail. Onboard their sister ship, the Empyrean, the unsuspecting families don't know an attack is being mounted that could claim the most important among them...
Fifteen-year-old Waverly is part of the first generation to be successfully conceived in deep space; she was born on the Empyrean, and the large farming vessel is all she knows. Her concerns are those of any teenager—until Kieran Alden proposes to her. The handsome captain-to-be has everything Waverly could ever want in a husband, and with the pressure to start having children, everyone is sure he's the best choice. Except for Waverly, who wants more from life than marriage—and is secretly intrigued by the shy, darkly brilliant Seth.
But when the Empyrean faces sudden attack by their assumed allies, they quickly find out that the enemies aren't all from the outside.
My take: This is a difficult review to write. I am certain this book will be controversial and an intriguing work for book clubs. Rarely does an author engage so much of the reader's cerebral cortex in Young Adult Literature. Which really makes it that much more enjoyable to read a book steeped in so much philosophy and symbolism. On the other hand, the depth is not so immense that a reader could not just ignore the philosophy and symbolism and simply enjoy a good book.
Really you have four parts of the book. To summarize, there are two ships heading towards a distant planet called "New Earth." The settlers left at different times and the ships are based on different philosophies but both have similar goals - to perpetuate the human race. However, something went askew on both ships and fertility became a huge issue. They are now on the second generation (43 years since leaving) and won't land for another generation. Without children, the ships won't run and the human race will not continue. One ship figured out the puzzle. The other did not. The ship without the children are happily steering through a nebula (blind spots) when they are attacked by the ship without the children. Brutally attacked, mind you. All the female children are kidnapped and the other ship is left crippled in space. That's part 1.
Part 2 and 3 are from the POV of Kieran, the natural leader and the one slated to be captain someday on the crippled ship and the POV of Waverly, his sort of girlfriend kidnapped on the other ship.
Kieran's ship is filled with violence and Lord of the Flies type posturing and society building. Two strong personalities are struggling for control. One boy has been brutalized by his father and knows only power games in order to gain control and uses violence and fear. The other boy is driven by ethics and standing by his moral compass. Note that both of these personalities are the extreme. Possible Reading Group questions might be:
- When does moral compass and speaking in the Spirit of God cross over to pride? What are some of the clues you picked up while reading of Kieran's rise?
- How are Kieran and Seth similar?
- What are the qualities of a good leader? What are the leadership qualities that were effective under each leadership style?
- Historically speaking, what leaders (secular or religious) remind you of the boys styles?
- How might the philosophies be applied to Puritanical America? (This question is paramount because the author specifically had the philosophies of Sacvan Bercovitch in mind. For a really spirited discussion, do some research on his early work, The Puritan Origins of the American Self and The American Jeremiad. However, this may prove somewhat disturbing if the book club has strong religious convictions but so will the next question...)
- What religious symbolism is evident? Think purifying, sacrifice, fasting (even though forced), and my favorite, Kieran's pose at the end of his last sermon.
Meanwhile, the girls are kidnapped under the guise of providing for the greater good. In fact, perhaps they are God's chosen ones. Who chooses God's chosen ones? Anne Mather. Not God.
- When does religious leader become dangerous? This should be prefaced that not all religious leaders are dangerous. I would lead this question toward pride and claiming to know God's will exclusively. There is no personal revelation and no argument. Anne Mather rules her flock by being the spiritual leader along with the political head. She may also have direct access to poisons and guns. I'm sorry. That was a spoiler but only a small one. I think we can safely assume that a leader who brutally attacks another ship for female children who either are in full fertility swing or will be within a few years just *might* be missing a few marbles.
- Compare this leadership style to historical figures.
- Compare this leadership style to current events. When does faith in God turn to a dangerous cult?
- What did Pastor Mather's claim happened to her and the other female crew on a previous mission? What is happening to the kidnapped girls? Are they all willing participants? Which group is more coerced and why?
- Some crew members innocently do not question the pastor's rule and strategies thus choose ignorance to salve their ethical conscience. Others know full well what is happening. Which is more dangerous?
- Do you believe Anne was always the way she is? Do you believe she believes in her calling and goals?
- Are there any current events or historical instances where similar circumstances were created?
Part 4 is the conclusion and culmination. I have many thoughts on this one but I fear I might give too many spoilers. On the other hand, let's discuss generic dilemmas:
- What are the purposes of bylaws? Who should be responsible for putting those into place? What are the dangers of ignoring those bylaws?
This could be a heated discussion. It could also be a fantastic study in the evolution of society and religious practices. Although not terribly familiar with the work of Sacvan Bercovitch, I suspect he could be seen as a controversial figure in the study of sociology and religion. I would go so far as to guess that the author wrote a story to illustrate this philosophy of Bercovitch and disguised it as a YA dystopia which is comprehensive in the subtleties of a new society, exploitation of innocent children in order to meet the goals of the group, and many other ideas that I can't think of because my mind is so very tired.
If I were to use it in a classroom, I would have the students read this book first just to lay the groundwork. It may need to be used in a mature class like A.P. Literature. If I were using cross-curricular work, I would read Bercovitch's The Puritan Origins of the American Self in a Sociological study which would also provide early American History.
Can you see how fun this could be?
Well then. Become an educator with leanings toward Sociology, Philosophy, early American History, and good Young Adult literature. THEN start a book club.