Hello Readers & Writers,
I was lucky to win an ARC of Defy The Stars by Claudia Gray and my goodness is this book a juicy, mind-tingling sci-fi novel. This will mainly be a spoiler free review so you don’t need to click away.
Defy The Stars is a dual POV book following Noemi, a warrior from the planet Genesis who has signed up for a suicide mission in order to buy her planet time in a war with Earth, and Abel, a one of a kind prototype mech who has started to develop a consciousness beyond its programming. The book opens up with a battle scene, giving an introduction to who Noemi is not only as a fighter but a person. The second chapter moves to Abel who has been trapped for thirty years in an abandoned spaceship. The reader is immediately aware of Abel’s internal changes, stemming from its isolation.
Note: I’m going to refer to Abel as it for now, mainly to indicate Abel is not technically human despite its growing consciousness and also to highlight Noemi’s struggle with classifying what Abel is.
A variety of mechs exists in this story, but they are programmed only to have one job: heal, fight, work, etc. Abel is a unique experiment by the creator of mechs, Burton Mansfield. There are several flashbacks in the story that indicate Abel’s difference from the other mechs – particularly how it learns new information, registers human emotion, and is favored by Mansfield.
When Abel first runs in to Noemi, I won’t say how, its initial orders are overturned by its main programming: protect the nearest human with authority. But just because Abel has its orders doesn’t mean Noemi trusts Abel or vice versa. Claudia Gray plays with the idea of if it’s possible to trust a mech and what it means for Noemi who has been fighting them in the war. There are also several questions raised about what consciousness means, where the line between human and robot is, and what happens when a robot becomes self-aware? After studying philosophy for many years in school, these questions are delightful and ones that are challenged throughout the entirety of the book.
Abel and Noemi go on an interplanetary journey, where Noemi hopes to find a way to stop the Genesis army from sacrificing their lives. While doing so, the pair of them learns about a revolutionary group that has arisen, the nature of Burton Mansfield, how complicated friendship and love are, the extent of mortality, and what can be defined as humanity.
From Abel’s POV, this is extremely interesting for it begins to understand human emotions. It recognizes the development of its neural patterns to if not mimic, feel these emotions. As much as the story is about Noemi’s quest to save her planet, it is also about her reconciling her initial judgments about Abel and the worlds she learned about through Genesis schooling. She sees the universe for what it is and gains information more valuable than any classroom could have taught her. Most importantly, she finds her faith, ironically with the help of a mech.
By the end of Defy The Stars, it’s hard to classify who or what exactly Abel is. From my perspective, I would agree with Noemi’s analysis of a soul being in Abel’s body or at least having a conscious to be more than its programming. The best thing about this book is you experience the growth of both Noemi and Abel – development that is both natural and enticing. You are rooting for them, while at the same time getting taken on a sci-fi adventure with both details and a plot that will keep you interested.
If you haven’t already considered reading this book, do it. It won’t disappoint.