Published: April 4, 2017
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction
Pages: 512 (Hardcover)
My Rating: 4.5/5.0
A copy of this book was received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Noemi Vidal is a teen soldier from the planet Genesis, once a colony of Earth that’s now at war for its independence. The humans of Genesis have fought Earth’s robotic “mech” armies for decades with no end in sight.
After a surprise attack, Noemi finds herself stranded in space on an abandoned ship where she meets Abel, the most sophisticated mech prototype ever made. One who should be her enemy. But Abel’s programming forces him to obey Noemi as his commander, which means he has to help her save Genesis–even though her plan to win the war will kill him.
Together they embark on a daring voyage through the galaxy. Before long, Noemi begins to realize Abel may be more than a machine, and, for his part, Abel’s devotion to Noemi is no longer just a matter of programming.
I was initially skeptical about a YA book with a human/AI plot mostly because I thought it would just be a trendy romance thing. I was SO wrong about that! I was pretty much swept off my feet by the characters and the story in Defy the Stars and couldn’t put it down.
Noemi is a young soldier in the decades long war between Genesis and Earth and she’s preparing for a suicide mission. Fortunately for her, this is disrupted by a surprise attack on Genesis’ ships during one of their last training maneuvers. In an attempt to save the life of her friend Esther, she boards an Earth ship that was damaged in a battle 30 years ago. Here she encounters Abel, an uncanny AI unit designed by the Earthen forerunner in cybernetics, Burton Mansfield. Abel can’t save her friend, but he does know the one weakness in the Gates that allow easy travel between distant worlds and Noemi is now his commander. Here begins their weeks-long journey between worlds to gather the equipment needed to destroy the Gate and hopefully stop the hostilities between Earth and Genesis.
I absolutely loved Noemi and Abel. Abel’s growing humanity and his coding are in an epic struggle and it’s really quite touching. Noemi struggles with so many things, from her feelings toward Abel (does he have a soul?), her duty, and her religion. It was refreshing to see Christianity portrayed positively and have a character that had a very believable internal debate within herself. I thought it was also really fantastic that all the worlds that were mentioned actually got page-time! Admittedly, the cultures weren’t terribly detailed but we got the gist and besides, there are plenty of opportunities in the sequels additional worldbuilding. The secondary characters, particularly Virginia, were pleasant additions to the cast and I can’t wait to see what (if any) roles they’ll play in the sequel.
Defy the Stars was such a pleasantly awesome book. It just made me feel good and when I got to the end I was pretty happy. Of course it’s got the classic “save the world” trope, but it doesn’t feel so heavy and dour as it sometimes can, though Defy the Stars retains the seriousness. Overall, I’d highly recommend this one, especially if you’re curious about YA science fiction.