A review by Nalini Haynes
four and a half stars out of five
A significant portion of twentieth century science fiction was set in a post-expansionist era where humanity spread to the stars leaving its refuse, the disabled, behind. Earth Girl gave this traditional science fiction trope a new twist, providing well for the disabled (called Handicapped). Although humanity denies their Handicapped the vote, they are given free education and guaranteed careers as long as those careers are based on Earth. Disability discrimination is rampant in this brave new segregated world, with everyone from comedians to everyday vids (television or videos) cracking jokes at the expense of the ‘smelly apes’ or ‘neans’ who cannot be distinguished from ‘norms’ (normal humans) apart from a genetic scan and their inability to survive on worlds other than Earth.
Jarra is Earth Girl. Handicapped but passionate about history, Jarra attends a university for norms on an Earth-based campus. Here Jarra makes friends, falls in love and rescues buried archaeologists and Military (as you do in first year uni) before being outed as Handicapped.
Earth Star is set in the second semester of Jarra’s first year at university. A bunch of malicious norms are campaigning against Jarra to force her to leave ‘their’ university. Last year a group of fellow students treated me in a not dissimilar manner. Jarra’s experience of bullying on campus is entirely realistic even in this allegedly politically correct era.
Jarra and her boyfriend Fian are enlisted in the Military as part of the Alien Contact Program. Although Jarra and Fian make genuine contributions in planning sessions, the real reason for their enlistment is to invite disability discrimination from bigots who are subsequently removed from their posts. Jarra nobly accepts her role while the Military defends her honour – after dangling her as bait.
Jarra knows she’ll have to fight disability discrimination her whole life if she wants to make a contribution to society. This is realistic in contemporary society where legislation allegedly protects people with disabilities but this legislation is ineffective and too expensive for people with disabilities to access. I appreciated the realistic component of Jarra’s struggle.
Jarra and Fian’s Worf-and-Jadzia-style relationship is excellent. Too many novels don’t carry an established romance well. Worse still are the series dangling romantic triangles, unresolved, in front of the audience in an attempt to secure ongoing sales. In contrast, Jarra and Fian establish a Two-ing contract at the end of Earth Girl and continue their relationship, growing, developing, throughout Earth Star. Jarra and Fian have their sexytimes but, as in TV of old, the camera pans to the ceiling or closes the door when things get hot and heavy.
The first contact element of Earth Star is well thought out, right down to protocols, arguments between arrogant academic wannabes and tropes referencing 2001: A Space Odyssey. Jarra and Fian grow as people, learning their places yet contributing although their secondment as ‘click-bait’ for bigots is somewhat dubious. Pacing is good; the story moves forward even with personal interludes, building to the climax that provides both a natural conclusion and a natural link to the next novel. Highly recommended for science fiction fans of post-expansionist twentieth century SF, fans engaging with current SF controversies where diversity and White Male Privilege are the two key factions, readers of YA (young Adult fiction) and those interested in fiction with a sociological element.