I’m a confirmed omnivore, but this book made me seriously sympathize with vegetarianism.
But also, and especially when paired together with Hanna Alkaf’s The Weight Of Our Sky, it has a really good point about decolonization and basic tolerance and respect (tho, that said, I’m a firm believer in socio-economic progress requiring real socio-political representation.) I’m getting ahead of myself, tho. A Conspiracy Of Stars is about a sixteen year-old girl, Octavia Afua English, who’s lived her entire life on the planet Faloiv. Two earlier generations of primarily scientists had fled a dying Earth in search of a new home, but an unfortunate encounter with a meteor crash-landed their vessel on the already inhabited Faloiv. The native Faloii placed certain terms on the new arrivals in exchange for peaceful co-habitation, including vegetarianism and a no-expansion policy, and for most of the humans, that’s just fine. But others disagree and are gaining political power. Octavia spent her whole life wanting to become a scientist like her parents, researching the native fauna for scientific breakthroughs, but circumstances beyond her control will push her into learning far more about her home and herself than she’d ever imagined.
What I liked most about this book was its unblinking look at the way people will justify any cruelty in order to further their own ambitions, regardless of the morality of their actions or even of their own desires. It’s weirdly cathartic to watch from Octavia’s eyes as people whose opinions and intellects she’d trusted prove themselves to be venal even as they pretend that they’re doing things for “the greater good.” Olivia A Cole doesn’t ask you to sympathize with any of them, and that’s so refreshing. Octavia herself is a deeply (but not annoyingly moral) person caught up in a life far different than what she’d expected, but who rises to the occasion with aplomb. I also really enjoyed the interpersonal relationships — friendships, romances or otherwise — as well as the baseline diversity of the book. Ms Cole makes excellent narrative choices that sidestep the tired tropes of too much YA sci-fi.
My only criticism of the writing is that the sense of place occasionally lapses, particularly when Octavia and Rondo or Alma are walking around N’Terra. It’s like “oh, there’s a door/building here!” all of a sudden. It’s a very tiny flaw in an otherwise well-drawn novel, complete with realistic characters and vividly imagined biology. Oh, and I must admit that I’m a little confused by the choice of cover! It’s a surprisingly cold choice for a book about a hot planet teeming with life.
Anyway, go read this book, it’s awesome. And the sequel just came out, too, and oh what, it’s already available from my library click click borrow!