Castelluci provides breath of fresh air for starved genre

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Amelia Smith

As a woman interested in science fiction, it can be hard to find books to read that fit my interests. Sci-fi in particular is a genre dominated by men and as such, the books are written for a male audience. When I found Tin Star and discovered it was not only written by a woman, but also had a female protagonist, I could feel my hopes soar. Luckily for me, and any other readers out there looking for a space story featuring a strong female lead, Cecil Castelluci’s Tin Star is a strong entry in the young adult genre.

The novel follows a young woman, Tula Bane, who ends up stranded on an alien space station due to a bad turn in the cult-like organization her family had joined colonize a new planet. With no money and no acquaintances (or even other humans aboard the station) Tula must figure out how to make a life for herself, all while planning revenge on the man who left her for dead. The changing political map of the galaxy doesn’t help her situation by creating turbulence that influences her life and the lives of everyone else on the station.

Tin Star is written from the perspective of Tula, and though her voice is sparse, it remains strongly personal. Tula as a character must shift from a follower to a survivor, and the change is written in a believable and sympathetic way. The pacing of the book may come off as slow initially, but it fits the intimate story of an unimportant space station on the fringe of a political revolution. The pace also suits the feeling of being stranded, without anywhere to go or anything to do in order to escape.

Since the story relies on Tula’s understanding of events, many events that take place don’t seem significant until later in the story because Tula doesn’t understand them. This is especially well written— though the politics are at times unclear, there remains a foreboding sense of what must be happening off of the small station.

Castelluci is not the type of science fiction author that spends a large amount of time explaining how the space ships function or every detail about alien’s physiology or home worlds. Instead these details are hinted at through conversations and Tula’s observations. This choice eliminates the tedious nature of information dumps that can plague sci-fi novels while maintaining an impression of a world populated with aliens possessing their own cultures and identities.

Tin Star has a planned sequel but Castelluci creates an ending that is satisfactory in how it resolves a main conflict of the story while simultaneously laying an intriguing groundwork for what will happen in the next book. It is a difficult balance, but Tin Star left me both thrilled by the ending and excited for the sequel.

Tin Star is a book for readers interested in a young woman gaining her own agency in the setting of outer space. It isn’t action packed, but the slow burn of the story suits the plot and is hardly boring. For fans of young adult sci-fi, it should not be missed.

 

Five out of five stars