Harper Voyager (9780007443505)
By this time, it has become clear to me that this is going to be my new favourite series. The second book of a trilogy is usually a bit below the quality of the first, because it has to maintain momentum and still stall for the big finale in the third book. I can see the stalling tactic in Earth Star, but it doesn’t bother me at all, because it is still awesome. There is more than enough happening. The only reason I gave it half a star less than Earth Girl is because it follows the rules of a trilogy too neatly, and I would have liked to see Janet Edwards shake it up.
But, who am I to fault an author who writes incredible storylines? In Earth Star, it doesn’t take long for us to jump back onto a new storyline. Jarra is dealing with the fall-out from Fian telling the class about her true nature. In my review of Earth Girl, I wrote that Janet Edwards deals with cumbersome explanation by letting it happen off-page. In Earth Star, we see that it actually does have consequences to have it handled that way: Jarra is experiencing feeling insecure and insufficient over not having owned up to her actions herself. Fian has, in gaining a backbone, taken part of her healing process away from her. It also gave some angry classmates ammunition to make Jarra feel even worse.
We don’t have as much time for the emotional in Earth Star as we did in the first book, because the action is taking up more space. A lot happens in this second book. Jarra and FIan are drafted into the Military because there has been an actual alien arrival! I was quite psyched for that, even if – as a reader – I was wondering why they would draft Jarra and FIan for it. Especially because they get full-on drafted, which Jarra wonders about as well. That she doesn’t understand why she is needed – other than that Colonel Riak Torrek was incredibly sweet on Jarra’s grandmother – helps a lot for the reader to accept there is probably something coming and we must wait for it, because the reason becomes clear only about a third into the novel. It takes time, but by then I had learned to roll with the story. Explanations do always follow later, with Janet Edwards.
It is actually quite a good reason, for which Jarra and FIan were drafted. I can see why Military command needs an Earth girl when the sphere has decided to come to Earth. That brings up another interesting issue and we delve more into politics here. The aliens have come to Earth which, despite being the origin planet, has no part in human society. It has chosen the backward planet without a zone designation and without a vote. These politics will become far more important in the third book, Earth Flight, but for now, we are still all about the action in the second book.
Jarra, as usual, has a superb knowledge of Earth because of the combined fact that she has lived there all her life, and that she has such a large interest in history and archeology. Before she knows it, she has a evacuation plan that could save hundreds of thousands, and you will fully accept that no one else in the highly trained (but off-world) Military has thought of that. That is what I love about these books. The plot should be outrageous, because Jarra always finds herself saving the day, but it is all so logical. There is some good thought behind these storylines, and it shines through every page.
I do think someone in the Military and their drafted civilian experts could have realised some of Jarra’s conclusions on their own. But on the other hand, Janet Edwards is showing us how deeply off-world people resent Earth. It is as if they resent coming from this planet in the first place, which they abandoned themselves and let fall into such disrepair. There is a blind spot among off-worlders and it is very much Earth-shaped. Jarra does not have this, and she is a very intelligent girl to boot. Once again, Janet Edwards is skirting the border between comfortably acceptable and a bit unbelievable, always staying on that line instead of swaying over it in one direction or the other. It is a feat, I’ll give her that.
The inside joke about Jarra attracting strange events has real use in Earth Star, as it makes Jarra realise something quite vital. This is what I meant when I said the scientists could have realised this on their own. Jarra is put in charge, again a decision that makes you wonder a bit. But then again, Colonel Riak Torrek does have a soft spot for a girl he quite obviously considers his granddaughter. And she did come up with this theory: making her publicly responsible for it has ramifications that Jarra herself realises when she fears they are not going to find anything. And as the Colonel tells her: she doesn’t have to know everything herself. She just has to know who to appoint to do that for her.
I like this insight into the Military structure, and I think it does resemble the way it works (in the real world, outside of the book, I mean). I consider Janet Edwards very finetuned to the actual problems of the world, and she expresses them in this trilogy so eloquently. It is neither too forceful nor too passive. And once again, Jarra being where she is for this mission will become very relevant for the events in the third book.
And of course, in this book Jarra gets to know more about her family. She meets one member, and learns a lot about her culture. The idea of having an entire extended family accepting her, is a dream Jarra doesn’t really dare to believe in. That is why, in this second novel, it is introduced but also put on the back burner, because it will come into play fully in – you guessed it – the third book. So very quickly go and read this entire series, and if you’re interested, check back for my review on Earth Flight.