I received a limited edition proof copy of To Sleep in a Sea of Stars in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Christopher Paolini and Tor Books. Originally posted on Grimdark Magazine.
In To Sleep in a Sea of Stars, we follow the third-person perspective of Kira who is a xenobiologist. We join her towards the end of an assignment on the Earth-sized moon of Adrasteia. On the final excursion to the moon, Kira uncovers a mysterious relic. What was hidden there was placed away for a good reason and Kira’s discovery of it will have dramatic consequences for herself personally, her crew who were studying Adrasteia, as well as to all in the known galaxies and beyond. As the back of the novel fittingly describes it: “Space holds countless secrets. She just found the deadliest one.”
I’m aware that Paolini is a fantasy megastar and I am one of the few amongst my friends who haven’t read The Inheritance Cycle. I went into to Sleep in a Sea of Stars as a blank canvas with regards to Paolini and enjoyed this fact so that I could analyses what is billed as the author’s first adult novel on its qualities and merits. I can confirm that To Sleep in a Sea of Stars is a deep, well-written, and intelligent SF-epic that is definitely for the more mature audience.
Set approximately 250-years in the future, To Sleep in a Sea of Stars features interstellar travel to planets and space stations, space battles and skirmishes, on planet confrontations, aliens and sentient life, a fair few swears, and quite a lot of impalement. It’s a beautifully-written novel, brimming with poignant moments, great action-segments, and an awesome skinsuit that bonds with our protagonist.
After Kira’s discovery and the catastrophic repercussions, she spends the majority of To Sleep in a Sea of Stars on a space vessel known as the Wallfish, or with the ship’s crew as they deal with the threats of two alien species (known as the Jellies and the nightmares) who both wish for the destruction of humankind. The crew of the Wallfish are a great ensemble to follow, all having intriguing and diverse pasts, all seem extremely loyal to each other, and qualified in their areas of expertise. The ship’s captain Falconi, the kid Trig, and the ship’s mind Gregorvich all have great interactions with Kira. The latter, brilliantly intelligent, poetic, yet slightly unhinged is a standout creation. I loved his banter with Kira and the many colourful nicknames he gives her (“O Spiky One”, “O Queen of Flowers”) and the crew of the Wallfish. There is also a pig that lives on the ship and is a favourite pet of the crew.
To Sleep in a Sea of Stars is a behemothic novel that features 850+ pages in both the ARC and the hardback versions. Creating something this detailed in a first foray in both science fiction and adult fiction is extremely ambitious by Paolini and I think he succeeds as he’s created an enjoyable and grand space opera with significant depth and detail. I have to admit, that I wasn’t always in the mood to read To Sleep in a Sea of Stars. I had to set aside a good chunk of my day and make sure that I had no distractions so that I could completely lose myself in this science fiction adventure. Every time I approached it I wanted to make sure that I could make a sizable dent in the novel. This is the first novel in the Fractalverse and is a complete standalone. The finale is stunning and completely fitting for the scale and scope of the narrative. Some of the characters could come back in future escapades, and others are almost unrecognisable with the manner they change throughout this novel. The next Fractalverse story could contain a whole new cast but it is definitely something I will be willing to check out when it is released. To summarise, To Sleep in a Sea of Stars isn’t YA and it doesn’t feature any space dragons but for those readers who like intelligent and ambitious SF with a Mass Effect feel then there is a lot to enjoy here.