That was what I imagined when I read the summary for These Broken Stars (2013) by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner. The cover itself suggests a dramatic inter-galactic soap opera. But the meat of the story is so much more.
In a not-so-distant future, mankind has conquered the universe. Other planets have been colonized, and massive luxury spaceliners that can travel in hyperspace exist. On one such spaceliner, the Icarus, Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen meet. Though they come from completely different worlds (Lilac’s father is the richest man in creation, and Tarver is a hardworking war hero), they are thrown together when the Icarus begins to break apart and falls to the nearest planet. As the only survivors, they must work together to remain alive in the desolate landscape of a foreign land. With no radio communications and hardly any provisions, they don’t know how to make contact with any other ships, or even how long they will be able to endure before being rescued.
Leaving the carcass of the crashed ship in their wake, Lilac and Tarver journey in search of civilization. On their trek, they encounter strange voices and energies, leading them to believe that the planet was once inhabited before the expansion of humanity. They meet no one, but eventually happen upon an outpost station. What they find there changes everything they know about their society—Lily’s powerful and influential father, in particular.
Star Trek meets Titanic. On that front, my imagination was not far off. Kaufman and Spooner definitely drew from those sources for inspiration, but at no point in the story did it feel forced or fake. The plot was imaginative and compelling, but what captured me most as a reader was the strength of both Lily and Tarver. It is rare to find a narrative in which the weight of the story is successfully carried by only two characters, but Stars manages perfectly. There were romantic elements, as Lily and Tarver are drawn to each other from the beginning, but it was not a love story in the traditional sense. Stars is about survival, making peace with oneself, and finding the will to carry on when the world seems to be at its bleakest. It was also refreshing to encounter a book sans a love triangle, and one that hinted at dystopia without following in the footsteps of The Hunger Games or Delirium. Stars can hold its own among its YA fantasy counterparts.
These Broken Stars is the first volume of the Starbound Trilogy—Kaufman’s and Spooner’s inventive galaxy can be further explored in This Shattered World (December 2014). While I plan to read the second book, I was disappointed to see in the summary that it will focus on two new characters, Jubilee Chase and Flynn Cormac. I don’t doubt Kaufman’s and Spooner’s abilities to weave a new, interesting story, but I don’t think that Lily and Tarver’s narrative is truly over.