Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!
Honestly, it’s a wonder that I managed to get my hands on this book when I did. I heard about it from a few “out this week” blog posts from other book bloggers (thank you!!), and as of today, the book’s only a week old. I put it on hold on the Kindle library, and it came in surprisingly quick, to my relief! I was super excited by the sci-fi premise, and in most of the relevant aspects, it absolutely delivered!
Enjoy this week’s review!
Star Splitter – Matthew J. Kirby
The method of space travel that 17-year-old Jessica Mathers is familiar with isn’t the kind you’d expect. In for the process to work, teleportation is a crucial step—the body that you’re in on Earth isn’t the same one that goes to space. But either way, after six years of waiting to reunite with her scientist parents on a faraway exoplanet, Jessica is going to space.
But when she wakes up, she’s alone in the wreckage of the ship that was supposed to carry her and the crew, stranded on an alien planet. The walls of the wreck are covered in the evidence of something sinister, and her parents are nowhere in sight. And a teleported clone of herself may be the only person she can trust—and the only person for miles around on this planet.
TW/CW: sci-fi violence, blood, murder, body horror, loss of loved ones
tread lightly – this review contains some spoilers!
Sci-fi that references old(er) poetry is an incredibly niche demographic, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t squarely in the middle of it. You got me there.
This book kind of came out of the blue for me—I forgot that Matthew J. Kirby existed after reading a few of his books in middle school (sorry), so Star Splitter was more of a left-field pick for me. But despite its flaws, it was a fascinating and gripping read—certainly a better addition to the world of YA sci-fi!
Hard sci-fi is hard to nail down for a young adult book; astrophysics and quantum mechanics are hard for anybody to understand, but I can speak for myself as an (older) teenager and a longtime YA when I say that it might be even harder to understand for a younger-skewing audience. Not to insult anybody’s intelligence—I’m fully including myself in there, in all my new English major glory. But Kirby hit the near-perfect balance with explaining the mechanics of teleportation, and how it factored into space travel. It wasn’t explained like it was being explained to a child, but it didn’t dump all of the information in an unceremonious chunk of jargon, either. And it’s a super fascinating concept to boot—it adds a layer of suspense to an already suspenseful book, there’s significant ramifications for most everything about the world that Kirby sets up, and there’s an existential aspect too. It’s all great there.
The story itself held a lot of water for me as well! There was so much to pick apart in it‚ from Jessica’s existential conflict about interacting with her own clone (HUH) and her own body to the mystery of what happened to the DS Theseus and its inhabitants. (Also, loved that we had a spaceship called Theseus. I’m assuming it’s a nod to the Ship of Theseus, but it also works on another level when you consider what happened with the crew. I won’t spoil anything about that in particular.) Kirby’s writing consistently kept all of that afloat, juggling two different timelines with suspense unfolding in both of them. His descriptions of the landscape of Hades (Mr. Kirby really likes his Greek mythology, huh?) were also nothing short of lovely—I’m a sucker for any kind of alien planet exploration, and Star Splitter, for the most part, adequately scratched that itch.
I say “for the most part” because, as much as I loved it, there were so many parts that seemed too important that were just left out of the final conflict. The sideplot about the ruins of an alien city with a giant pile of ground sloth-looking skeletons???? Bioluminescence everywhere?? BEING PURSUED BY AN UNSEEN ALIEN IN THE SHADOWS??? That was my favorite part of the whole novel, but we really didn’t get any resolution to it. It felt like such a crime that we never got to see where that thread led, given how much it was foreshadowed and otherwise built up. I get that it wasn’t necessarily the main conflict, but Kirby gave it a similar amount of weight to the main conflict, so it felt like it was in need of a more satisfying conclusion than “Jessica got out of the city ruins somewhat unscathed.” I NEED MORE. GIVE THE PEOPLE (ME) WHAT THEY WANT.
I feel like this happened a lot with Star Splitter for me—aside from the main conflict, there were so many fascinating and inventive things going on with the world that felt so creative, but were just tossed aside as afterthoughts once they were explained. The fauna on Hades? Mt. Ida? QUANTUM GHOSTS? I was just taken aback by so many parts of the plot, only to have them scrapped in favor of the main conflict, which I…halfway understand. All this is to say that said main conflict was excellent, but I just wanted more. It wasn’t like Star Splitter was an exceedingly long novel either—320 pages leaves some room to explore at least a few other aspects of the world, I think. That’s why I’m *officially* putting my rating at 3.75 instead of the full 4 stars—there was so much creative stuff to chew on, but not enough of it was expanded upon. I’ll be needing a sequel, please and thank you. 🏻
All in all, an inventive and fascinating sci-fi novel that presented a plethora of creative aspects to fill up the plot, but still left me wanting in some places. 3.75 stars, rounded up to 4!
As of now, it looks like Star Splitter is a standalone, but Matthew J. Kirby is the author of several other books for children and young adults, including the Dark Gravity Sequence (The Arctic Code, Island of the Sun, and The Rogue World), The Clockwork Three, A Taste for Monsters, and many others.
That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!