To Sleep in a Sea of Stars - Book Review

To Sleep in a Sea  of Stars - Book Review
Photo by NASA / Unsplash

Format: Audible 32 Hours
Author: Christopher Paolini
Genre: Science Fiction

Christopher Paolini, famous for the Eragon series, has taken a step into science fiction with the novel To Sleep in a Sea of Stars. The story follows a story of humanity expanding beyond the bounds of earth and coming face to face with what lies beyond. Overall the novel, which I listened to over thirty-two hours on Audible, provided an entertaining story but moved too quickly to explore some of its more interesting ideas.

The story follows Kira Navárez, an off world xenobiologist on an otherwise routine mission to document signs of life on a far out planet. In a somewhat cliche "don't go in the haunted house" moment, Navárez falls into a long abandoned alien warehouse. She merges with an unknown alien technology in the form of a sentient suit. This had parallels to the black ka'kari from Brent Week's night angel trilogy and a continued theme is Navárez learning to use, and trust her new companion.

Awakening this technology alerts a hostile alien race, one of the story's antagonists throughout. Navárez is captured, escapes and is ultimately picked up by a roving ship harboring refugees. The crew of this ship forms the remainder of the main cast with a varied collection of back stories and roles.

Navárez and the ship's crew explore the origin of the alien technology and face off against the alien threat. Here readers begin to survey the wider universe that Paolini is building in the novel. While much of the world building was engaging, the novel felt like a drive-by of potential future stories. This was  best characterized in the ending which was largely a setup for future storytelling.

The audio book format worked well for this novel. Voice acting was consistent and engaging. Given Jennifer Hale's career voicing roles in games like Mass Effect this is no surprise.

There was relationship development between the cast but much of that felt skin deep. While I finished listening with some curiosity for the future, it was more aimed at the overall story of humanity. I was not overly attached to any individuals or their relationships with one another.

As I listened to the final third of the story I was making my way through Stray, a semi-dystopian video game featuring a small cat. The storytelling partnered with visuals of a run down future tied together well. The semi-hopeless feel of Stray's robot inhabited city characterize the tone of the story. Humanity has expanded, grown its reach, but in a way that feels more robotic than organic. More driven by routine than a quest for the unknown.

I will be keeping an eye out for future novels in this new world but don't yet feel the same connection as I do to other multi-book projects like the cosmere. If you're in the mood for a light and interesting space opera, I would recommend this book. If you're looking for deep and technical science fiction, perhaps look elsewhere.

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