“The world still has a chance. What would it do with a second chance? What would I do?”
Notice: I was approved for an eARC of this book back in December on NetGalley. Today is the book’s birthday, so happy book birthday to Alechia Dow!
Can a girl who risks her life for books and an alien who loves forbidden pop music work together to save humanity?
Two years ago, a misunderstanding between the leaders of Earth and the invading Ilori resulted in the deaths of one-third of the world’s population.
Seventeen-year-old Janelle “Ellie” Baker survives in an Ilori-controlled center in New York City. Deemed dangerously volatile because of their initial reaction to the invasion, humanity’s emotional transgressions are now grounds for execution. All art, books and creative expression are illegal, but Ellie breaks the rules by keeping a secret library. When a book goes missing, Ellie is terrified that the Ilori will track it back to her and kill her.
Born in a lab, M0Rr1S (Morris) was raised to be emotionless. When he finds Ellie’s illegal library, he’s duty-bound to deliver her for execution. The trouble is, he finds himself drawn to human music and in desperate need of more. They’re both breaking the rules for love of art—and Ellie inspires the same feelings in him that music does.
Ellie’s—and humanity’s—fate rests in the hands of an alien she should fear. M0Rr1S has a lot of secrets, but also a potential solution—thousands of miles away. The two embark on a wild and dangerous road trip with a bag of books and their favorite albums, all the while making a story and a song of their own that just might save them both.
To be very honest with you all, I read this book back in December when I was backpacking through Costa Rica. So much has happened since then, and unfortunately, this review just kept getting pushed back. However, I do have some notes I took on my Kindle to go off of, but in general, this will be a shorter review.
One of the things that fascinated me the most about The Sound of Stars is how the story positions itself as a “message from the future” for current-day society. Even though this book is very much fantasy/science fiction, it has its moments where you could mistake it for realistic fiction.
One of the biggest drivers for the Ilori invasion was the fact that the Earth was being destroyed by humans and the Ilori recognized that they could reverse the damage. In this sense, The Sound of Stars is very much a cautionary tale for the possible future of climate change and political corruption on our own Earth.
This portion of the book yields an interesting perspective for the main character Janelle who is living at the cusp of the world as she knew it and what it is rapidly becoming. I really enjoyed this dynamic of the book and its evocative nature. Relating it to real life, this whole “living on the cusp” idea may mirror how the oldest living generations of the world feel right now. What societal norms were like for them in their youth and what they are now are most likely vastly different.
This dynamic also made me wonder what I would do if the world still had a chance to recover. Or, more realistically, what am I doing now that the world is increasingly reaching a precarious state.
Finally, I wanted to make space to appreciate Morris as a conflicted antagonist. The ARC of his character was laid out fluidly and the progression of his changing mindset fit well with the story. Morris’ character fits the schema someone, who for one reason or another, refuses to conform to societal demands. And because he is a Ilori robot with these complicated emotions, Alechia Dow cleverly painted a unique, futuristic tale of the human condition through a non-human main character.
Also: black curvy female main character representation!
With all of that being said, I still unfortunately did not enjoy this book to the fullest extent possible. My issues mainly consisted of the romance between Janelle and Morris, and the fact that this book seemed to drag on. Here is a direct quote from my review notes on December 17th:
“This book dragged on and on and on. There were so many subplots that served the sole purpose of adding length to the story and it became very irritating to be incessantly told what needed to be done time and time again.”
From what I remember, Ellie is constantly regurgitating the motivation for the story. We need to save the world. We have to save the world. We have to get to this place. We have to talk to this person. This is frustrating as a reader because I know what the motivation of the story is. I can comprehend where the plot is going without the main character telling me over and over.
Another point I made in my notes is that there seemed to be a trend of “romantic” moments between Ellie and Morris followed by another perilous subplot. Again and again. Do you see a trend? Because I do.
Overall, I enjoyed the thought-provoking nature of The Sound of Stars, but beyond that, I had great difficulty getting invested in the story. The book felt very repetitive and became tedious to read. That said, there are a lot of conversations to be had about society that are presented in this book, and I’d still encourage anyone who likes critically analyzing fiction to give it a read!