Review: Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan

Sep
27
4 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: 2 stars, Sci-Fi

Book: Glow
Author: Amy Kathleen Ryan
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Release date: September 13, 2011
Source: ARC for review from Around the World Tours

Summary: (from 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 survivalâ??not loveâ??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 teenagerâ??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 marriageâ??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.

First impressions: Heart-pumping action gets things moving right away in this sci-fi space adventure. Waverly’s ship, the Empyrean, comes under attack almost immediately, just as she’s trying to navigate the pressures of her boyfriend Kieran’s proposal.

Lasting impressions: I was disappointed in the black-and-white outlook of this one, with very little gray area explored.

Conflicting impressions: Some of the moral issues Ryan tackles throughout the novel had very little nuance. The religious zealotry and adolescent boy power struggles particularly left me cold.

Overall impressions: There’s something to be said for a book that you already know you’re not enjoying, yet compels you to keep reading it anyway. This was one of those books.

Very early on, I knew I wasn’t connecting with Waverly, and the choices made by almost every single character frustrated me. Yet I kept reading. The action is incredibly well-written, with the pace pushing you page after page, until the next thing you know, you’re halfway through the book. Too bad the entire time I was reading it, I was growing more and more horrified by the ugly and unsympathetic characters.

Kieran is a nice enough boy, but he lacks any real leadership skills, despite being set to inherit the ship from the captain. Seth is set up as an interesting counterpoint in a potential love triangle, but the minute he’s left alone with Kieran the two of them duke it out in an over-the-top power competition where they torture each other. Without any accompanying backstory, we have no other frame from which to analyze their actions, leaving the reader stuck watching two boys do very bad things without any understanding of why they’re doing them.

*very slight spoiler alert!* Over on the New Horizon, Waverly is doing the best she can to take charge of the girls who have all been kidnapped from the Empyrean. *end spoiler* Waverly turns out to be a mostly effective leader, who questions what she is told by the adults around her, and strives to rescue her friends and family that were attacked by the New Horizon’s crew. She meets their captain, Pastor Anne Mather, who is nothing but a shrill old woman who uses religion to control her ship’s passengers.

Pastor Mather could have her own post entirely. She is a villain for whom Ryan creates a sympathetic angle (years of misogyny and abuse by the male elite), yet her actions are so indefensible that I couldn’t possibly side with her. The answer to violence and oppression is never more violence and oppression. This is something Waverly begins to understand while interacting with Mather, and I suspect it will be explored in future books.

Given how much I disliked the experience of reading this pessimistic, depressing tale, I worried I wouldn’t finish it, or would give it one measly star. However, the dramatic action and the fact that I had such visceral reactions to the material made me realize that it was probably just not the book for me. I think there are plenty of people that would eat this one up with the vivid characterizations and interesting plot around the power of religion and fertility in human development, but in my opinion, this one fell flat.

Rating: 2/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system




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4 Responses to “Review: Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan”

  1. Rubita says:

    I had the same experience as you–I felt compelled to finish the book even though it was painful to do. Do you think that compulsion will hold, and you'll read the next book in the series?

  2. BURIED IN BOOKS says:

    Yeah, I read Ruby's review and she felt the same. I've read, pardon the pun, glowing reviews of this book and none of them mention the torture or the religion. You should see the facebook page. I won this book, but I'm thinking of just passing it on to someone that likes this type of book. Some people have compared it to Across the Universe! That was a great review!

    Heather

  3. BookGeek says:

    I've been seeing a lot of buzz for this book and I must admit, I'm still intrigued. I like stories that really up the ante with violence. (Wow, that sounds horrible…) But I wonder if I would still enjoy it if I didn't see the full development of characters and the whole religious thing. Thanks for giving me some food for thought on this book!

  4. Anonymous says:

    I'm glad you finished by saying this wasn't the book for you, because I've seen a lot of reviews call this book badly written for not having a moral or likable character. I can totally understand that, but as someone who is *drawn* to books like that, I feel like it's unfair to pin it on the author, who may feel like me about morality. And I disagree with the black and white thing – if anything, I don't even know who is necessarily to blame for the events in this novel at this point, despite the fact that I know what happened. Doesn't get more morally grey than that! But I'm happy to agree to disagree!


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