Serious Sci-Fi: ‘Tin Star’

17255996Tin Star by Cecil Castellucci
February 25, 2014, Roaring Brook Press (Sci-Fi, Young Adult)*

My rating: I’d go there again!

Tin Star is the first in a new teen sci-fi series, and it certainly fits the sci-fi bill.

Tula Ban is fourteen when she makes a stop at the Yertina Feray space station as part of a colony from Earth. Unfortunately, Tula asks too many questions and finds herself brutally beaten and left behind while the ship departs. Left for dead, Tula is taken in by an alien, Heckleck, who reluctantly develops a soft spot for this human and teaches her to survive within the alien species at Yertina Feray.

Years go by and Tula adapts to her new way of life. She’s now seventeen, a well know trader in her own right, just skirting the law on this less-than-civilized space station. What keeps Tula going is her need for revenge. She wants to kill the colony leader that left her for dead and is seemingly responsible for the death of her mother and sister. When a group of humans arrive on the space station, it seems that Tula’s revenge is much more imminent, but can she trust these humans? And why does the head of law enforcement, Tournour, seem adamant about Tula keeping out of things?

Tin Star was a wonderful first installment to a series. The writing was sparse and direct but this world was beautifully created. The politics of the galaxy played centre stage, which was surprising for a teen novel:

The rules of the galaxy had been made up long ago. The first worlds to travel and settle were the Major Species. Those Major species fell in and out of power. They passed off power, keeping the center of the map rotating like a fiery ring of suns. They stretched their reach as far as they could. But new planets were always being discovered. New life. New civilizations (p.51).

Humans are only a minor species in this world, and Tula is looked upon with suspicion and disdain when she first arrives at Yertina Feray, but she gradually gains many aliens respect as she deals and trades in favours on the station. For the most part, Tula stays out of the larger politics that govern the station and the galaxy, but she is about to realize how her revenge and the larger world are connected.

The political planning in Tin Star was intricate. It was fascinating to see how the world was established and who gains power and how this power changes hands. Normally, I’m not a huge fan of this type of plot line in novels; however, I think because this storyline was combined with such an interesting character, I was happy to learn more about this world.

Tula Bane is a character with many facets. At first glance she’s skirting the law on the station by working with Heckleck; she’s an almost criminal. However, when the humans arrive on the station, you realize that there is so much more to Tula. She’s been without human contact for years and this has changed her completely. In some ways, Tula is just as much an alien as the other species on the station. It was fascinating to see how Tula’s interactions with the humans are played out.

While I loved how Tin Star combined a political sci-fi thriller with a character-driven plot, I could have used more interaction with Tula and the other characters in the novel, especially the aliens. If there is a weakness in Tin Star is would have to be Tula’s relationship’s with others. While Tula is connected to some, these relationships come across a little wooden since readers don’t really “see” the interaction between Tula and others. One specific example that comes to mind is Tula’s complicated relationship with Tournour. Tournour is the head of security at the station and over the years he’s dealt with Tula and her almost-criminal ways and they seem to have developed a friendship. Readers don’t really see a lot of this friendship, so when I got to the end, I felt thrown for a loop with regards to the relationship. I think a little more “show” and less “tell” of the relationships Tula has had with the aliens would have went a long way in understanding the ending.

Overall, I loved Tin Star and I will be recommending it to fans of sci-fi. This isn’t your average teen romance in space, this was something much more complex and I was kept continually guessing throughout the whole novel. This was a wonderful character study of a complex young woman and I cannot wait to see how Tula changes in the next book.

*Review copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley.

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