Skyward, the first book in the series by Brandon Sanderson (reviewed by us here), had humans isolated on the planet Detritus in the far distant future. That story deals with human society and how it reorganised itself, its fights for survival with the invading Krell and its attempts at technological advancement. It was also Spensa’s story – how she becomes a pilot, discovers the AI ship M-bot, becomes a part of the flight crew fighting the alien Krell and discovers the latent genetic ability she has of jumping through hyperspace.
(Spoilers ahead for Starsight)
Starsight takes Spensa out of Detritus and into the eponymous space colony where a number of alien species co exist under the government of the Superiority. Except, of course, for humans who are the reviled ones. With the help of M-bot and along with her pet, the doomslug, Spensa travels to Starsight disguised as an alien, to try and steal hyperdrive technology which would help her people get off Detritus. The story deals with Spensa’s attempts at espionage and her attempts to mingle with the citizens of the Superiority. The camaraderie of the first book which was all about Spensa becoming a part of a team is missing as are her friends who put in a very limited appearance in this story. Her isolation on Starsight and with M-bot in philosopher/ self discovery mode, the story does not provide the reader with the same smart quips and humour which Skyward did.
Spensa also has to constantly deal with the anti human sentiments on Starsight and how humans are considered dangerous, both for their aggressive nature and also for having tried in the past to use the all powerful inter dimensional beings known as the delvers to win their wars. Disguised as another species, Spensa is not able to adequately defend her own. Though she does learn that the aliens she had thought of as monsters are also people just trying to live their own lives.
In a way this is a more important book because of the themes of accepting the other, inter cultural relationships, the meaning of freedom as well as the meaning of being alive and the understanding of being in “the other’s shoe”. But perhaps because of all this Starsight is a more serious book with more espionage and less action and is also perhaps more boring. Spensa and M-bot are out of their element, but we loved Hesho, the fox/vole like tiny alien, autocratic king who claims not to be a king anymore, and who has a poetic soul. In many ways he redeemed the book for us.
Since Sanderson is incapable of writing trilogies, we wonder how many books there are going to be in the series. Either way, we await the next instalment.