To Sleep in a Sea of Stars

I was really excited when I heard Christopher Paolini was writing another book and branching out from YA fantasy. I honestly hadn’t looked too much into the book, and it snuck up on me this fall as I was distracted by the rest of life. But when I popped into the bookstore to pick up a gift, I decided to cave to impulse and buy myself my first, full-price hardcover book in… a very long time.

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars is Paolini’s first dip into science fiction. Kira Navarez is a xenobiologist dreaming of new life. As the team wraps up their research on a planet being considered for colonization, everything seems to be going perfectly. Kira and her boyfriend Alan are planning a future, the crew is pleased with their efforts, and the planet is a go. But one last expedition turns everything on its head and suddenly everything Kira had and dreamed of vanishes.

Alone, afraid, and in possession of… something, Kira lands right in the middle of a sudden interstellar war, and humanity is severely outgunned. As she wrestles with guilt and responsibility, Kira believes she must find a way to pursue a tenuous peace offering, no matter the cost. What she could never expect is that peace will require more than just her life.

This fall has been on a roll with books that really get to me. Paolini proves himself a master storycrafter for all ages and across genres. He creates layered, relatable characters and puts them in a world that feels real, all combining to draw readers in and lose them in the story. Despite the interstellar nature of the story, at its core is humanity and the human experience. The choices made, the involuntary actions, the fears and joys and challenges all evoke feelings of having been there. I kept thinking, “I know what that feels like.” It serves to remind readers that, though circumstances are individual, experiences are shared.

Paolini’s story is action-packed and full of hurdles. Highlighted through it all is the tenacity of humanity, fighting even when it seems hopeless, just doing this one task right in front of them. They keep tackling each challenge until, at the very end, Kira must face the final challenge on her own–facing the reality of herself and her actions, and finding a way to accept it all.

I loved the story right until the final part. I’m not sure if I didn’t care for it because it was a sort of perfect ending, not quite jagged enough for me. It felt a little too… mystic, is maybe the word. After all the fighting, it seemed almost a bit of a let down to drift off among the stars. But maybe that’s just me.

I will say, the one real issue I took with the book is that, to me, it felt a little bit like a teenager leaving the restrictions of the house and realizing, “I can swear all I want now!” The book has a lot more profanity than I would have expected, and I don’t think it added anything to the story.

In short, however, I found that this book filled all the holes left by my favorite science fiction stories. I’d been looking and looking for exactly this, I didn’t realized I just needed to wait for it.

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