To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini
October 21, 2020
I'll be honest, I really wanted to like this book. I'll start off by saying I was a huge fan of the Eragon series when I first read it in elementary school, and I've reread it as recently as last year with much of the same enjoyment. For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, Eragon was Paolini's first book (it ended up being a trilogy), a fantasy novel. While the writing isn't phenomenal per se, it still remains as one my favourite books simply due to hwo much enjoyment I derived from it as a kid. All of this to say that I started To Sleep in a Sea of Stars really wanting to like it.
Maybe my expectations ruined it a little for me, because I didn't really end up liking it very much. The book is Paolini's first foray into writing sci-fi, and it's a very plot-focused and world-driven novel. Even so, I often found myself confused as to what any given character was referring to at a time. You could put the blame on me and say I didn't pay close enough attention to know everything and that's probably true, but this is how I felt reading it. The world building is quite detailed and obviously a lot of time went into it, but a little too much emphasis was put on fighting and action scenes instead of exploying in depth society and the people in the world. What's more, despite being a fairly long book (close to 900 pages), the character development felt very weak. A few of them fit very molded, obvious stereotypes but there were very, very few characters that felt truly interesting, aside from maybe Gregorovich.
Overall, the book was ok in my eyes. I do honestly think the writing is a step up from Eragon (though the female POV coming from a male author is a little clear at times), and this could potentially be a great book for someone more into action sequences and galactic war. For myself, the poor pacing, weird character development/stereotypes, and less than stellar prose was enough to keep me from loving it.
There are a few moments in the book that I want to mention in greater detail. The first is the "twist" near the beginning of the story. It wasn't actually much of a twist and honestly didn't do much to impact the entire rest of the story. Kira doesn't read as someone broken from literally, albeit indirectly, killing all her colleagues and even fiance. Again, the character development is wonky, and it felt like parts were either omitted or jammed in to make the plot flow better.
To expand on my gripes with the characters, the stereotypes are far too obvious. You have the overly excited, inexperienced kid, the dashing and "mysterious" captain, etc. Some of them have some good lines, but they didn't feel real enough, still very one-dimensional. As I mentioned, Gregorovich was the most interesting, and I wish he had pushed a little more into his psychology instead of just hinting at it over and over again.
There's a scene at the end where Kira meets with everyone again and presents them gifts. If the rest of the book felt at times like a fantasy thinly disguised as sci-fi, this scene was just full-blown, plain magic. There are lots of parts in the book that I think could've been cut and this is one that should've been reworked. It was too easy of a resolution and for characters that I, again, didn't really care for.
I'm being very critical of the parts I didn't enjoy but there were good parts too. There's an interesting segment where he talks about how people can take advantage of faster-than-light speeds to watch the past and some of his descriptions are quite fun to read as well.