Harper Voyager (9780007443512)
And it’s back up to five! What a surprise, after two great books in the Earth Girl series, Janet Edwards delivers again with her conclusion, Earth Flight. Although, let’s not be too hasty. There are instances in which a badly written third book can spoil an entire trilogy for you (looking at you, Tahereh Mafi). But this series has been my new favourite obsession ever since I started the first page of Earth Girl, and I will never fall out of love with it now I’ve read it all the way to its conclusion. When I put it down, I couldn’t let these people go. I wanted to stay with them, read more about them. They are the sort of characters that actually do live on after you close the book and when you find that, you know you’ve got a 5 star rating on your hands.
So, Earth Flight is where everything really goes kablowie. In such an unbelievably epic way. I actually felt tingly all over with emotion when I realised what Janet Edwards was doing by (sorry, very early spoiler) cancelling all the marriages. That was such a great step to take, it took the book to an entirely different level. But I am getting ahead of myself. When the book begins, the rest of humanity knows Earth isn’t going to be blown apart by an alien sphere, they jump in to take it all away from the throwback planet, and show their bigotry in a classical way. They boot Jarra (and Fian) from the Alien Contact Program despite everything they’ve done so far and say it is in their best interest to continue school.
It’s a perfectly reversed world. Jarra was recruted into the Military in Earth Star not so much because of her skills, but a combined feat of her useful skills and her extremely useful Earth girl-status to draw out badly-behaving Military personnel. She was let in and everyone (grudgingly) accepted her authority. The quick promotion-succession was a bit hilarious, obviously meant to make sure we all knew the situation was kind of silly. But then she actually did solve the alien sphere problem. She found the device on Earth, and activated the device so they can now communicate with the sphere. As she has actually become one of their best assets, she is shoved out.
Back in class, of course Jarra and FIan have a hard time readjusting to being mere students again. I like how these little things are always in Janet Edwards’ books. The detail with which she can sketch an emotional of psychological situation for a character, making it part of their background instead of putting it front and center, is very well done. She made a big deal out of this in the first book, Earth Girl, because that book was all about Jarra getting past her own hang-ups to become the person she could be. Now that she has done that, the books move to a much larger scope.
Such as exposing the intense bigotry all of humanity has for their origin planet. They have completely denounced it, actively hate it. Where does such a thing come from? And how finely attuned it is to our real world problems. It is not an obvious parallel when you put it side by side, but if you read these books you will see how much overlap there is on a meta-level. This book just gives you great insight in the mechanics of the world, politics, people, and society both whole and fragmented. And it’s the politics that matter in Earth Flight. The aliens are addressed at the end, at a point where I thought we were going to skip it entirely. And can I tell you a secret? I was kinda okay with that, because the politics of intergalactic humanity were so awesome in Earth Flight, it was enough for me.
By ousting Jarra and Fian from the Alien Contact Program, after having their faces plastered all over the “newzies” and her becoming the poster child for Earth, Janet Edwards has a good reason to single Jarra out for all kinds of danger. From a rioter’s protest to actual assassination attempts. It introduces to us a new character, Raven. I personally think that after this book has ended, Jarra, FIan and Raven really did get into that triad marriage. It was so obvious to me how much the three of them were into each other! After a fashion, of course. The fake-out on the Raven sacrifice didn’t do anything for me at all, considering how miniscule this sequence was, Janet Edwards could have easily done without it. I would have preferred that, but then again, no harm done, really.
Fian has a nice character progression as well. I didn’t like him at all in the first book, and in the second I still considered his insecurity to be quite annoying. But in this book he really grows into himself and becomes very likable. While I’m on the subject of characters, I liked Dalmora’s crush on Playdon, and his reaction to that crush. Having been crushing on a college professor myself, I can very well see where Dalmora is coming from. Besides, I kinda think that when they all go to the alien planet to excavate, and they aren’t student and teacher anymore, something will definitely come of that. In my mind it does.
I would also like to take the opportunity to tell you HOW MUCH I am in love with Dannel Playdon myself. Seriously. I have not been crushing on a fictional character this hard since forever. I would seriously devote my life to that man if he were real and just because he isn’t, doesn’t mean I’m not dreaming up scenario’s of the two of us. Did anyone else ever crush that hard on a character? Tell me who! I do have to say I can see my tastes totally changing as I get older, it’s kinda funny. I think I’m finally over the bad boy phase, and going for those real stand-up quieter guys. Too bad I’m – for now – only doing it on paper, though.
All right, back to the story. I haven’t spoken yet about Jarra’s Betan status, and her extended family accepting her into the fold. I questioned the Betan thing at first, as did Jarra, but I’ve come to really fully embrace it after we started learning more and more about them. While this began as something personal for Jarra, under the microscope of intergalactic humanity it actually turned into an all-out war between Earth and the rest of the planets. It was absolutely amazing, and I loved to watch it all escalate. The ceremony was great as well. Jarra’s brother being so stand off-ish and then realising why he had been – an emotional gut punch if there ever was one. And so insightful of Janet Edwards, it truly is. Then the head of the Augustus clan and his grandchild.
The only thing I didn’t like, and for which I could consider detracting half a point if the book wasn’t so awesome, is the fake-out with the wedding. Yes, I know, in the end it is all with a strong purpose. As is the case with Janet Edwards, you think she is screwing something up, and then it actually comes into play later and pushes the plot ahead with full force. Also the case with this wedding, so I have mixed feelings about it. I’m glad the important ceremonies were out of the way, but it felt like a stalling tactic at first and I actually grunted in annoyance. When I found out it cascaded into all the marriage annullments, I saw the plotlines coming together as they should and I forgive and forget, but it still leaves kind of that aftertaste in my mouth. I had the same mini-repeat of that reaction when the Alpha sector said they wouldn’t accept Earth, and then turned around and made them the figurative center of the universe again, I felt so much feels!
Lastly, we come to the alien part. Yes, we do get there, even though it happens in the final chapters of the book only. Janet Edwards takes us through a speedy reconnaissance mission when the home planet is found. I actually had an aha-moment when I realised that the portal system we’ve been reading about for three books is so reflective of this. You really do get everywhere within minutes. Going to an alien home planet, once you actually found it, actually does only take minutes. Up until this point I’ve been wondering if Jarra ever would get to set foot in space. In the first review, I’m telling you I would be quite up for the plot twist that she never will.
Truth is, we’ve come so far, Jarra and I. She has shed her anger towards off-world humans, and accepted herself. She has done and seen so much, accomplished so much. It would be the one thing holding her back from having it all and it is a huge thing. A favour that everyone wants to do her, but no one can. Janet Edwards weaves the possibilities and impossibilities into all three of her books, giving options that aren’t really options. Until Jarra is the only one who can give humanity access to the alien planet, and the choice is taken from her. She’ll go to the stars or die. Maybe she’ll go to the stars and still die (although we all know that would never happen, this is a strictly all-survive trilogy). I really like how Janet Edwards made it not Jarra’s choice. Even though it is her choice, at the same time it really isn’t. It’s once again a fresh option I haven’t really seen before.
I think that what Janet Edwards did, was a very elegant solution. The option that was forced on Jarra went wrong multiple times, still almost killed her, costs the Military a fortune, and is barely compatible with the best of candidates. It made sure that in the end, her shortcut will not work for any other Earth citizens. And I really like that, because that is not what these books are trying to tell us. Janet Edwards’ answer to their plight, however, is still forthcoming in an amazing wrap-up of storylines. Granting Earth residents the power to travel space by letting characters colonise compatible planets over time, is a permanent and empowering solution for a people so long cut off from things everyone else finds so normal. It is going to take years of Planet First and whatnot, but that is life. And by that I mean true life, laid out in an awesome parallel here. Exciting things happening on a realistic time scale, solutions with consequences – Janet Edwards does it all and she does it so well.
And it still gives Jarra the opportunity she has been dreaming of and, by the end of the third book, thoroughly deserves. It is also very fitting. I was afraid Jarra would have to give up archeology, which she loves, to create a happy ending, or she’d have to give up on her dream of the stars, staying on Earth and working as “only” an archeologist. But she can do both, and I can’t help but marvel at the way Janet Edwards knows how to close an awesome and absolutely perfect trilogy.