Monday, May 14, 2012

Versus: Kids in Space Edition

Last  week  two books came in for me at the library that had very similar premises. I realized that that kind of happens pretty often-especially when you read as much YA as I do. It may be a trend thing, it may be that I am subconsciously ordering items with the same type of description because that is what I am in the mood for when I order them, or it may just be coincidence. However it happened, it loans itself to a great new idea: Vs. Two books, similar plot/theme, read back to back and discussed. Perfect. So, without further ado, here is the first installment of "Vs":

Kids in Space! I have had this on the brain because of the summer reading theme and one of the books they really pimped at the Summer Reading Workshop was Losers in Space. Earthseed I found while looking for upcoming Tor releases (this is a reissue with a MUCH better cover).


Losers In Space is by John Barnes, was just published (2012) and concerns teens trying to up their virtual popularity so they stowaway on a shuttle to Mars. Then disaster happens.

Earthseed is by Pamela Sargent, was published in 1982, and concerns teens who have been raised by Ship. Ship's mission is to carry these fledgling humans to new worlds so that they may colonize and begin new human populations.


 What really drove me to dive into Losers was Susan (who is pretty kick ass-even if she starts off very fake) and the excellent story telling. Barnes sets this space travel story up really well, and the world building is excellent and totally believable. The book does not get too technical without relieving the reader of the feeling of constantly being forced to solve math problems by introducing "Notes for the Interested" (meaning they do not drive the plot, but if you are interested, you can learn more about the subject or why Barnes chose to include it). I read all of the notes for the interested even when they were a little over my head.
My only gripe, and this is very small, is the lack of emotion of the characters. Except for an early freak out, and a touch of homesickness later, the characters adapt to this scary situation really well. Who the heck would adapt to this situation so smoothly? No one!
I did appreciate the lack of romance as well-the story just did not need it. Barnes handled character relations in the same way he explained math formulas and I thought it worked. Of course, I adored Fwuffy. Fwuffy alone is worth reading this book. I shall say no more on the subject.
This is NOT the typical YA novel

Earthseed is a very valuable story that is, at its core, about the human condition. What is our purpose, and why are we the way we are?
A ship full of human kids has been sent into space to find a new planet to colonize and expand the human race. The kids have been raised by Ship (think Hal) and have spent years learning the skills they will need to start a new world. This first book covers the training exercise inside the Ship that is their final test before colonization. Things go wrong, very wrong, but the best part of this novel is that it is unpredictable. The real bad guy in this story emerges from the kids themselves. And that leads to the question of our nature as humans. Are humans still humans if they are not raised on Earth? Are they humans because they act human, even if that means having war-like tendencies?
I highly recommend this. The narrative is robotic and stilted in some sections, but that would be natural for a group of kids raised by a machine. The characters are very mature, and while there are hints of romance (or hook ups, rather) this is not your typical YA novel

The result:

This is a toughy, as I really enjoyed both of them. They are very different in many ways. I have to give Earthseed to some of my Hunger Games loving friends as it felt as if Collins was paying homage to Sargent, especially scenes in the Hollow-we could have been right back in the HG arena. 
Both books are for the crowd that likes to actually use their brains while they read, both pose the question about what it means to be human, and both have had the side effect of making me want to read more science fiction. 

The Winner (by a hair): Earthseed and really because there are two more books in the series and I know I can revisit these characters again. Both are great books, and paired together, they are a force that is futile to resist.

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