Thursday, February 2, 2012

Audio-Book Review: Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan

Author: Amy Kathleen Ryan
Publication: Macmillan Audio; Unabridged edition (September 27, 2011)

Description: If a violent battle destroyed the only world you’ve ever known, would you be brave enough to save who was left? Would love be strong enough to survive the fight? Either way, there’s no turning back.

The Empyrean is the only home 15-year-old Waverly has ever known. Part of the first generation to be successfully conceived in deep space, she and her boyfriend Kieran will be pioneers of New Earth. Waverly knows she must marry young in order to have children who can carry on the mission, and Kieran, the handsome captain-to-be, has everything Waverly could want in a husband. Everyone is sure he’s the best choice. Still, there’s a part of Waverly that wants more from life than marriage, and she is secretly intrigued by the shy, darkly brilliant Seth.

Suddenly, Waverly’s dreams are interrupted by the inconceivable – a violent betrayal by the Empyrean's sister ship, the New Horizon. The New Horizon’s leaders are desperate to populate the new planet first, and will do anything to get what they need: young girls. In one pivotal moment, Waverly and Kieran are separated, and find themselves at the helm of dangerous missions, where every move has potentially devastating consequences, and decisions of the heart may lead to disaster.

Pulse-pounding and addictive, GLOW begins the most riveting series since The Hunger Games.

Winner of a Publishers Weekly Listen Up Best Fiction Audiobook Award

My Thoughts: Reading and listening to Glow was an amazing experience. I was swept up in this story about people on a long term space voyage to New Earth and couldn't help but be engaged in the story. This is the first long audiobook that I have ever listened to. I was reading along in a print copy of the book and was, at first, dismayed by how slowly the story seemed to be happening. I read much faster than I can listen to the spoken word! But it didn't take me long to appreciate the richness of hearing the story being read. I also had the book constantly in my thoughts in between listening sessions.

The two narrators - Ilyana Kadushin and Matthew Brown - both did masterful jobs in creating distinct characters and in conveying the emotions of each scene. The narrators alternated chapters or sections with Kadushin doing the sections that focused on Waverly and Brown the sections that focused on Kieran. The ten hours of listening flew by.

As a student of geography and history and as a long time reader of science fiction, I was most fascinated with the culture and politics of the space voyage. I was constantly looking for hints of the bigger picture. Two ships set out from a dying and almost destroyed Earth. The Empyrean was filled with those who were more secular and the New Hope with those who were more religious. They set off on a voyage that was planned to be longer than 60 years before they would reach New Earth. Early into their voyage they discovered that they were having fertility problems. The scientists on the Empyrean solved the problem enough that the Empyrean has children aboard. The narrators of this story are two of the older children - Waverly and Kieran. Both are around 15 or 16 and both feel the social pressure to marry soon and begin having children. I felt that, while they loved each other, there was also the element that they chose each other because they were each other's best option from a limited pool of choices.

When the New Hope slowed to catch up with the Empyrean, the kids' peaceful life undergoes a major disruption. It seems that when the scientists on the Empyrean shared their solution for the fertility problem with the New Hope something went wrong and the fertility of the women on the New Hope was completely destroyed. New Hope has no children. It has also been taken over by a charismatic, religious leader - Anne Mather - who has come up with a desperate plan. They are going to kidnap the girls from the Empyrean to solve their fertility problem. Anne Mather is a wonderful, smiling villain who really believes that the end justifies the means and is willing to do horrible things to bring about her vision for the future. 

When New Hope attacks and successfully steals all the girls, the Empyrean is left in disarray. Almost all the adults on the ship are either killed, off on shuttles to try to rescue the girls, or almost killed in trying to stop a catastrophic engine failure. The boys are left to manage on their own and rather quickly devolve into a "Lord of the Flies" sort of scenario. Kieran was being groomed by the Captain to be the next leader but had always had a boy named Seth as his biggest rival. Seth was the son of one of the Captain's cronies but was a volatile bully. Seth manages to take over the crew with the help of his bullying cronies and imprisons Kieran in the brig where he leaves him to starve until he falls in with his plans. Locked up, starving, and worried about the ship and about Waverly, Kieran experiences a religious conversion. When he gets out and retakes the ship, he gives the boys hope by talking about God's plan.

I liked all of the characters in the story and thought that they were well-rounded having both strengths and weaknesses. I was a bit dismayed to find that the major adult characters that the kids interacted with were either evil, in one way or another, or completely ineffectual. The burden of survival rested completely on the shoulders of kids who weren't ready for the responsibility and who had to cope as best they could. Both Kieran and Waverly did rise to the challenge but in very different ways. One of the characters I wish I understood more was Seth. He seemed to change personalities depending on who he was talking to. With Kieran, he was a bully and violent. With Waverly, he was thoughtful and reasonable. I look forward to the next volume in this series to see how everything plays out because, while the boys and girls are reunited, they still have a huge number of problems to resolve. 

This was a fascinating science fiction story. I recommend it to the thoughtful teen who wants to visit a possible future. The audio made the story an amazing experience. 

Favorite Quote:
She threw up in the corner of the elevator, bracing herself against the wall. An acrid smell filled the air, but once she'd vomited, had picked the particles of digested food out of her hair, had straightened up to stand again on her own two feet, she discovered she felt nothing. Not sorrow at having to leave her mother behind. Not grief that Samantha, wonderful, strong Samantha, had been filled. Not pain in her arm, still bleeding. Not regret at having killed a man. Nothing. She felt nothing.
I received this audio-book from Macmillan Audio in exchange for an honest review. You can buy your copy here

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