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Presented by State Library Victoria

Navigating the Stars – By Maria V Snyder

I think I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I have very mixed feelings about this author’s books.

Her recent ones have been, in my opinion, much better than the first fantasy series she wrote.

Instead, Navigating the Stars and Chasing the Shadows are the first two books in this sci-fi series which is different but also very similar to many books of the same genre.

 

Terra Cotta Warriors have been discovered on other planets in the Milky Way Galaxy. And Lyra Daniels’ parents are the archaeological Experts (yes with a capital E) on the Warriors and have dragged her to the various planets to study them despite the time dilation causing havoc with her social life.

When one of the many Warrior planets goes silent, and looters attack her research base, Lyra becomes involved in discovering why the Warriors were placed on these planets. And, more importantly, by who.

(Navigating the Stars blurb, from Goodreads)

 

THREE THINGS I LIKED

  1. A different interpretation of the future of our galaxy
  2. Archaeology!
  3. The Q-Net

As I’m sure a lot of you know, the planets (and Pluto…) in our solar system are all named after Roman gods and goddesses. Many moons, star-signs and stars and other spacey things have names derived from Latin, Ancient Greek, or Roman. I found it disappointing that I’d never thought twice about this or considered having planets named in another language. It was refreshing, then, to have pretty much all planets in this alternate universe named in Chinese! As the main reason that Lyra and her parents are on another planet is that they are searching for and studying an alien collection of statues very similar to the (real) terracotta warriors found in China in (I think) the seventies, it works well with Chinese planet names and also… it’s just cool!

That leads onto my next point, archaeology! Maria V Snyder does seem to have a thing for archaeology (as her other recent series is centred around it too) and so do I. It’s cool, and makes the story very different – I haven’t read many YA novels about that study. Even though Lyra isn’t interested in pursuing a career in it, the is still very deep in archaeological finds and I love that element of the plot.

Ahh now for my last positive point… The Q-Net (or Quantum Net) is like our internet levelled up a few times. To access it, people insert Tangs into their ears and “entangle” with the Q-Net. Instead of hacking, there is worming, which Lyra happens to be very good at. Instead of there being a screen displaying a search engine (like Google) the Q-Net is described to be like a ball of yarn, with layers and layers that wormers dig around and under to access hidden information. While I was not satisfied with the explanation of how exactly Lyra travels through the Q-Net, it’s still a neat element of the story and an interesting interpretation of what our future internet searched could be like!

 

TWO THINGS I DISLIKED

  1. Lyra (yes I know, it’s probably not a great sign if I don’t like the protag.)
  2. How realistic some aspects of the storyline are

Okay so I can’t exactly go into depth here without spoiling, but I found Lyra to be a little cliché. I do think the same thing with a lot of main characters so it’s not exactly new. As I read book two directly after finishing the first, I can say that she gets a bit more interesting. Of course, she still is very noble and a Good character – she protects her family and friends, is selfless, and is a bit stubborn when people tell her to stop doing good things and rest. While these are all good qualities (mostly) and I hope people are kind and selfless like she is, for a character in a book, I want something less tired – like a character who in the end we find out is not a very good person after all… I did read a book where that plot twist happens, and I have to say it was great.

While some aspects of this book are MEANT to be unrealistic, like potential crazy aliens and the weirdness of the Q-Net, there were more mundane things that I thought were a bit weird and wouldn’t happen in real life. Spoiler below explains:

Radcliffe, head of Security, decides that Lyra, instead of going into detention for illegal worming (hacking the Q-Net), will stay at his apartment and he will cook food for her. As they hadn’t gotten to know each other very well yet, I thought this was a bit of a forced decision and not something a real person with his characteristics would do. Of course, that’s my opinion and people could really be like that. Another unrealistic aspect was Medical Stuff. As my parents are nurses, I’m used to hearing them disagree with medical practices and how realistic cuts and bruises are shown in movies and TV shows. Now I think I’ve started doing it myself… but maybe the way people do first aid and nursing has changed in the four hundred years between now and Lyra’s time.

 

Overall,  a cool book with a couple of things I thought were off or found boring: 3.5 stars

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