Disclaimer: I received a free review copy of this book from the author. All quotes are based on an uncorrected text. Release date: February 25, 2014.
“Life was cheap out in the black. I had learned that, and it still hurt to know it.”
Tula Bane’s family has joined the Children of Earth, a group of humans led by Brother Blue who seek to colonize the stars in opposition to Earth Gov’s isolationist stance. When their space ship, Prairie Rose breaks down and has to stop for repairs, Tula is beaten bloody and left for dead on Yertina Feray, a derelict space station orbiting a barren planet. Humans are not well regarding by the other spacefaring races, and as the only human on the space station, Tula must face the prejudices of the aliens in order to eke out an existence for herself until she can find a way to get off Yertina Ferray. Fortunately, she has found a mentor in Heckleck, and the station constable, Tournour, mostly turns a blind eye to her semi-legal activities. But as the years pass, it looks less and less likely that Tula will ever be able to leave, until three more humans are stranded on Yertina Feray, changing everything.
The concept of Tin Star is best described as Firefly meets Star Wars, contrasting those who scrape by on the edges of space with the power plays of a crumbling intergalactic alliance. Cecil Castellucci gets the plot off to a quick start, stranding Tula on the space station and setting up her universe within the first fifty pages. She manages to bring this universe deftly to life, despite setting the entirety of the action on an isolated space station. The system, however, seems on the verge of collapse, putting Tula’s personal struggles against a backdrop of wider conflict that complicates her quest for revenge against Brother Blue. This first novel is largely about Tula’s personal struggle, but it also seems to be setting up a wider story about humanity’s place within Castellucci’s universe that will probably play out through the series.
Tin Star is narrated in the first person by Tula, who begins the story innocent and trusting thanks to Earth’s isolationist stance, and the insularity of the Children of Earth. Tula grows to be a hard character, jaded by the tough life on the Yertina Feray, but sometimes still incredibly naïve about life in the wider universe she now inhabits. Her long separation from other humans also complicates her relations with the three who eventually arrive on Yertina Feray. Tula’s ignorance and narrow focus on her goal help to preserve the mystery of the story, but attentive readers will probably catch the incongruous details that Tula misses, hinting at the truth about Brother Blue and the Children of Earth. The story is much more believable armed with the knowledge that Tula’s point of view of somewhat suspect.
Perhaps as a result of the combination of the first person narration and the fast pacing, Tin Star’s downfall was that some of the secondary characters felt underdeveloped. While the aliens Tournour and Heckleck seem fleshed out and real, the three humans who land on Yertina Feray are only sketchily characterized, and Brother Blue is a largely one-sided villain. The human girl, Els was reasonably distinct if not entirely believable, but I had trouble distinguishing between Reza and Caleb until almost the end of the novel, when their paths diverge sharply. Given how short Tin Star was, I couldn’t help but feel Castellucci could have taken the room to more fully realize these characters. Despite these shortcomings, Tin Star comes to a strong conclusion as Tula realizes she will need to overcome the hurts of her past in order to face the difficulties caused by rise of the Imperium.
More YA Science Fiction:
The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey
The Rules by Stacey Kade