A review by Rebecca Muir
Publisher: Pyr (Prometheus Books)
Format: paperback, 276 pages
Earth Star is the sequel to Earth Girl. I loved Earth Girl, so I leapt at the chance to read and review Earth Star, and I wasn’t disappointed.
Janet Edwards has created a funny and endearing character in protagonist Jarra. She is an 18-year-old history student in the year 2789. Humanity has travelled out to colonise space, all but abandoning Earth. Earth is now primarily the home of the Handicapped, humans born with an immune system that won’t survive anywhere but Earth. Jarra is one of those Handicapped and has wrestled her whole life with the emotional and psychological issues that come with being abandoned by your family because of a disability. In Earth Girl, Jarra set out to prove that the Handicapped are the same as everyone else, in the face of a universe full of stigma and discrimination towards the Handicapped. However, she started to realise that it was actually her own attitudes that needed to change, both towards the “Norms” and towards herself.
This book is set a week after the end of Earth Girl. Jarra is now a bit of a star, particularly in the Military. She just wants to get back to her studies and her relationship with Fian. However, the Military have other ideas. After centuries in space, the Alien Contact program has just been activated for the first time, and Jarra and Fian are summarily drafted into the Military. Thrust into an officer’s role, Jarra approaches the situation with her usual blend of common sense, quick thinking, self-doubt and determination. The Military have hidden motives for calling her up, but she might end up being the one to save them all.
One of the main themes in Earth Star is that of disability. Jarra must continue to deal with her own complex issues related to being Handicapped, as well as face the prejudice of those around her. Even those who are supportive of her have their own agenda for her based on her Handicap. Jarra also faces a mental health challenge in this book, following an accident on a dig site. This causes a different sort of handicap, which Jarra must also work through. Jarra is portrayed as brave in a grit-the-teeth-and-do-it-because-there-is-no-other-option kind of way. Through the course of the book she grows a lot in her feelings about herself and her Handicap. She learns to see herself as more than just a Handicap, and starts to realise that although that is always going to be a part of how other people see her and respond to her, it is not the only thing others see in her either.
Related to this theme is the issue of prejudice. There is the obvious prejudice towards Jarra and the other Handicapped, but there is also the prejudice between different Sectors of space, all of which have developed their different value systems, which is explored. As Jarra uncovers more about her family, she and Fian have to work through their own prejudices about their different cultural backgrounds. The book also deals with the prejudiced attitudes some people have towards the aliens — there are some who want to react with force because they assume the aliens are a threat that needs to be neutralized.
The value of trust is also explored in this book. Jarra must trust Fian both in the field and in their relationship. She must also trust the Military Command to make the right choices, even when she doesn’t understand them. Likewise, others must trust Jarra — there are a number of situations in the book where others, particularly Military Command, must choose whether or not to trust Jarra when she starts acting on instinct and following a course of action they don’t understand. Jarra must also learn to live under the pressure of the trust others place in her.
As in Earth Girl, Earth Star has a nice blend of action and drama, great characters, thoughtful exploration of some of the issues and a dash of romance. It is an easy and fun read. I highly recommend it. If you can get hold of Earth Girl, definitely read that one first. There is enough back story in Earth Star that you could read it on its own and not get lost, but they are both such great books that I recommend reading them both. They are targeted at the young adult audience and are both “coming of age” stories, but they are books that adults will enjoy as well.