Recent Reads: Starbridge, AC Crispin (amazon affiliate)
This is one of my favorite books. It’s a first contact story, led by a teenage girl, and I was the same age as the protagonist when I first read it, which probably helped cement its place near and dear to my heart. :)
Mahree Burroughs (I only noticed the nod to Edgar Rice there in this reading!) is a human from an Earth colony, on her way to Earth for the first time to go to college. Their ship, captained by her uncle, picks up a signal that doesn’t seem to be natural, and the adventures of First Contact begin, with culture clash, social expectation, and secrets being kept on both sides escalating to system-wide danger.
The characters are pretty well-realized, all around. From an adult perspective, Mahree is kind of annoying with her concerns about being ‘just ordinary,’ which, well, for one thing, you’re the protagonist of a book, kid, so you’re obviously not that ordinary. But she’s just barely 17, and let’s face it, there’s a lot about 17 year olds that’s annoying, so honestly, I can’t fault the characterization there, and I can assure you it didn’t bother me at all when I was on the edge of 17 myself. :)
Nearly all of it ages surprisingly well: the tech is mostly not described so thoroughly as to be dated, and while the hero’s fascination with 20th century movies is perhaps a stretch, it’s also a nice touchstone for 20th (and 21st) century readers. And also, it’s a thing for that character, not everybody; lots of the other characters think he’s slightly bonkers for liking these old movies. :) Mahree uses ‘cassettes’ to record her memories, but technologically speaking, I’m like “yeah, ok, that works well enough,” even if a modern writer would probably use different tech for a teenager’s daily diary. (And 30 years from now, that would be outdated too!)
What does *not* age well, and which is a problem in at least the second book of the series as well, is that the teen protagonist embarks on a romantic relationship with an adult; in this case the 24 year old medical prodigy Rob Gable, who is very young for his job but is also, undoubtably through his characterization, a grown-up. There was a brief time reading this one where I thought that the years on Mahree’s home world were longer, and so she was perhaps 17 by her calendar but somewhat older by Earth standard, but…unfortunately, no. It’s not a coersive relationship, and in 1989 it didn’t bother me aaaaaat aaalllll, but it’s not 1989 anymore and I now 100% find it squicky.
THAT SAID, one of the things I like (and we get into proper spoiler territory here) is that Mahree is at least able to recognize she’s not in the same place on her journey as Rob is, and later books make it clear that their relationship, which I do actually accept is based in love and admiration, is also…not really terribly successful in a lot of ways. Which doesn’t exactly make up for the squick factor, but it does make their overall arc a little better, from this side of time.
The much stronger, non-romantic relationship in the book is with Mahree’s new alien friend, who casts his lot in with Mahree in order to try to prevent the adults in their lives from making extremely bad mistakes.
There were several scenes that, in this reading, got me choked up. I don’t remember that happening before, but god, I’ve become a moosh, and they were obviously well-written enough to really get me right in the feels. Overall, even with the “augh I wish they hadn’t gone there” aspect of the romantic storyline, the book still really, really works for me as an adventure, a coming of age, and a launch pad for the longer series. I’ll be re-reading the series over the next few months, and I’m almost certain I’ll review the second one independently too, because it’s ALSO one of my favorite books, but IDK yet if I’ll do all of them or if I’ll just lump the later ones together. :)
After more than a hundred years of space travel, a stray radio signal indicates the possibility that alien life might exist. The crew of the Désirée has no training in interstellar diplomacy and a minor dispute turns to disaster that could escalate into a full scale war.
Can the bond formed between two very different friends be strong enough to bridge their differences and save their people? Come along in this first book in the StarBridge Series in an exciting journey across the stars in a desperate gamble to save both their worlds.
Starbridge, AC Crispin (amazon affiliate) at Amazon!