Saturday, February 7, 2015

This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

"Each mind unique, each thought created for an instant and then broken apart to form new ones. You don't understand the unbearable beauty of being you."

This Shattered World is the second in the original Starbound series by this outstanding duo. The novel features two new characters but also ties into the first novel, These Broken Stars. which saw the wealthy Lilac LaRoux and soldier Tarver Merendsen thrown together after they crash land on a mysterious planet.

Readers will remember in These Broken Stars, Lilac LaRoux, heiress to the LaRoux fortune and soldier, Tarver Merendsen crash landed after the spaceship, Icarus,  was destroyed by an encounter with a dimensional rift. They are directed by mysterious "whispers" to an abandoned station on the planet but not before Lilac dies and is brought back to life. At the abandoned base they are able to communicate with the "whispers" who confirm they are responsible for Lilac's recovery and they have been the source of the visions. In their search for the station's power source, they see the upside-down letter V of the lambda - the insignia of LaRoux Industries which once operated the station.

Lilac senses that there is something unusual in the station. This is confirmed by their discovery in the basement of the station, of a circular door made to dilate like the iris of an eye as they both experience strange shivers and a coppery taste. Documents at the station mention a dimensional rift and attempts to recreate the rift using the super-orbital reflectors around the planet as well as on another planet, Avon, which Tarver was stationed on a few months earlier. They also mention the "extraction of test subjects" from the dimensional rift which are described as having telepathic abilities and are "phased life-forms, energy based, noncorporeal". Lilac realizes that "these beings, experimental test subjects to my father's teams, have led us across the wilderness to this spot...I wish we knew what they want."

Lilac also understands that the "whispers" are able to temporarily convert energy which is what they did to make her come alive again and that she needs to get behind the door to help them and save herself.  Using her name as the password, she opens the door and gets the power to the base running to send out a weak distress signal. In the power control room they discover the rift but also realize that the "whispers" or creatures are the power source for the station and are trapped in the power grid. With Lilac beginning to fade, Tarver destroys the dampening field, allowing the "whispers" to speak to him using his dead brother, Alec's form. They tell him that they came to Tarver's world out of curiosity but were imprisoned, unable to enter this world or return to their own and then became unwilling test subjects. They are all interconnected but somehow, LaRoux was able to separate them, making them weak.  Tarver is told that Lilac's distress signal is weakening them so he shuts it down. To save Lilac, Tarver jumps into the dimensional rift thereby closing it, creating a large energy surge. This ends the rift for the "whispers" and saves Lilac.

Lilac and Tarver are rescued by one of her father's ships where they learn that fifty thousand souls died in the Icarus accident. They are separated, inspected, monitored and interrogated. But during interrogation, Lilac and Tarver each play their part, Lilac "a spoiled heiress, too traumatized to remember anything" and Tarver, "a big, dumb soldier." in order to protect what they found on the planet. 

In This Shattered World, the story moves to the terraformed planet of Avon. Eighteen year old Captain Jubilee (Lee) Chase is in Molly Malone's a bar when she is kidnapped by a handsome, Irish rebel, Flynn Cormac, and taken into the swamps. At first Lee suspects this boy whom she nicknames "Romeo" is a spy for one of TerraDyn's competitors. Flynn takes her to his currach, forcing her to inhale petrol fumes which knock her unconscious and travels deep into the swamps, where the Irish rebels, known as the "Fianna" are hiding.

Flynn has abducted Captain Chase because she's the one soldier who's been on Avon the longest and she is the only soldier unaffected by what has become known as Avon's Fury - a condition that causes soldiers to "blank out" and murder civilians. Flynn also believes Jubilee Chase has vital information regarding a secret base that he has just discovered in the east. But when Flynn mentions the secret base, Jubilee has no idea what he's referring to. She knows of no base in the east and tells him so. Flynn wants to know why Avon is "generations behind" its terraforming schedule and since the planetary review is imminent, he wants to know who is behind the delay and how they are doing it. Flynn tells Lee that if Avon doesn't develop as it should, it will be unable to support a growing population and will never be represented on the Galactic Council.

When Flynn takes Jubilee to the location of the base, it is no longer there. As Flynn drags her to search for the missing base, Jubilee begins to experience strange sensations; she has a strong metallic taste in her mouth, she hears whispers and sees a pale green light in front of her. Suddenly she sees the facility surrounded by a high wire fence and a guard dressed in black looking at her. As she collapses, thinking Flynn has drugged her, Lee finds a mysterious object which she manages to hide in one of her boots.

Flynn doesn't know that Jubilee has seen the base and after she collapses he takes her to the rebel's caves deep in the swamp where he hides her in a small cave. Flynn knows rebels like his opponent McBride will murder the "trodairi" in retaliation for the execution of Flynn's older sister, Orla, who led an insurrection ten years ago. Flynn has another rebel, Martha, get word to the base that they have Captain Chase and want to trade her for supplies.

Despite his efforts to hide Jubilee, McBride is told of her presence and violently assaults her before Flynn can intervene. As she is recovering from her injuries, Jubilee learns the true identity of "Romeo", Flynn recognizes that Jubilee is in grave danger and decides to take her back to the base, However,  once they arrive at the rebel dock, Lee knocks out Flynn and using a currah escapes back to the TerraDyn base.

Jubilee is debriefed by Commander Antje Towers but she does not reveal the identity of the boy who kidnapped her nor the location of the rebel base. In an attempt to see what Towers might know Jubilee tells her that the boy was looking for information on a base in the east. This seems to trigger Commander Towers ending the debriefing, raising Jubilee's suspicions that Towers is knows more than she is letting on.

Meanwhile Flynn returns to the base to see Jubilee who tells him that one of her soldiers, Mori, killed a civilian as a result of the Fury and has been shipped out to Paradisa. Jubilee tells Flynn that she believes she is not susceptible to the Fury because she does not dream and that doctors do not know why this is. Flynn warns Jubilee that McBride is planning on waging war against the base but refuses to give her the names of the leaders of the rebellion.

Almost immediately after Flynn leaves her quarters, Bravo Barracks is blown up by a man, Davin Quinn killing thirty soldiers and injuring many others including Flynn. Flynn is taken to a makeshift sick bay filled with wounded soldiers, making the discovery of his identity almost certain. He tells Jubilee that it is very unlikely that Quinn willingly bombed the barracks as he preferred to remain uninvolved with the conflict. At this time Jubilee reveals that she saw the mysterious base in the east and that she found an ident chip on the island. They discover that the chip has the lambda symbol of LaRoux Industries on it.

When Flynn's face is posted on the base as the man who kidnapped Jubilee he escapes back to the rebel caves only to find that Jubilee has apparently murdered some of the rebels after experiencing the Fury. When McBride orders Flynn to kill Jubilee, he finds he cannot and they manage to escape. Both Jubilee and Flynn do not understand how she could have experienced the Fury. Jubilee tells Flynn that when she experienced the Fury she had a metallic taste in her mouth and that she felt dizzy and disoriented - the same as she felt when she found the LaRoux chip suggesting that somehow the Fury is connected to the chip, LaRoux Industries and the base. Jubilee wants to report the massacre at the base, but Flynn convinces her not to. The two escape back to the base, with Flynn hiding out at Sophia Quinn's home. As the two struggle to understand the connection between LaRoux Industries and the Fury and how this might be something that is being done to Avon, Jubilee makes the decision to contact her former captain, Tarver Merendsen, who served on Avon almost a year ago.Tarver agrees to come to Avon.

Jubilee is stunned to see that Tarver Merendsen is the expert TerraDyn is sending to evaluate the base's security in light of the recent rebel attacks. Jubilee and Flynn tell Merendsen that the Fury has been getting worse, affecting people who were previously immune and also attacking civilians, and that there is some kind of hidden facility in the east that is connected with LaRoux Industries.

When Tarver contacts his fiance, Lilac LaRoux asking for her help, Jubilee tries to convince her and Tarver that they need to bring what's happening on Avon to the attention of the military command. However Lilac reveals to Jubilee that she and Tarver discovered her father was involved in a major conspiracy which he covered up by destroying the planet they had crash landed on. She tells Jubilee that he had taken the "whispers" from the dimensional rift and they thought that they were destroyed along with the planet. Only a few months ago they realized that this was not the case. Tarver tells Jubilee they need to find proof of what is happening on Avon and they need to go public with it, while Lilac warns her to trust what she feels and not what she sees since the whispers can manipulate their minds.

Merendsen explains more about what happened to them on the planet when the Icarus crashed. He tells them that "LaRoux Industries opened a rift on that planet, a gateway between this dimension and another...this one permanently jammed open, and there were sentient creatures living there. LaRoux's scientists pulled these being through and trapped them." He also explains that the "whispers" as they call these beings, can change the planet they are on. On the planet he and Lilac crashed on, the planet's growth was sped up and the animals altered. This leads Flynn and Jubilee to consider that the whispers on Avon have done exactly the opposite - slowing down  the terraforming process and preventing any life from developing. 

As the conflict between the rebels and the military grows, Jubilee and Flynn set out to try to find the base and learn what is going on. Can Jubilee and Flynn discover the truth about the secret base and Avon amidst the growing violence between the military and the Fianna rebels on Avon?


Once again Kaufman and Spooner have crafted a well written story that builds upon the events from the first novel. The authors seamlessly connect the two novels, although readers won't see the connection until they are almost halfway through the second book. Nevertheless this connection is done very well and is one of the strengths of the novels, creating a cohesive storyline that is both interesting and engaging. 

In this novel, Kaufman and Spooner tell their story using two narratives, that of Jubilee Chase, a well trained soldier from Verona and Flynn Cormac, a member of the Irish "Fianna" rebel group. In keeping with the structure of the first novel, interspersed is a narrative of Jubilee's story from when she was orphaned at age eight on the planet of Verona. This third narrative is important because it helps the reader understand events that happen at during the climax of the novel, filling in some of the back story.

The recipe in This Shattered World is much the same as in the first novel; two very different people who initially despise one another, are thrown together repeatedly, only to discover they both have redeemable qualities. Jubilee is a strong, motivated female character, determined to forge her own path, a "lifer" as she describes her career in the military. She has a daunting reputation as a steely trodairi, a soldier with a reputation for dealing harshly with the rebels. She has worked hard to put down the rebels, in part because it was rebellion in her city of November on Verona that killed her parents when she was eight. When she meets Cormac she finds him surprisingly thoughtful, more concerned about his people and his planet than making war. She'd "expected him to snap something stupid and noble, like most idealistic young rebels." She also expected him to murder her.

Likewise supporting character, Flynn Cormac, whose Irish ancestors settled Avon  discovers that Captain Jubilee is much different from what he expected.
"I don't know what I expected her to be like, but it wasn't this. The stories about her say she's made of steel -- she volunteered to come to Avon, the planet that drives men mad. She never runs, never hides, never loses. Stone-faced Chase, inhuman and deadly." But Flynn begins to realize that Jubilee is not inhuman and that she does feel fear.
Neither act as they are expected to. Jubilee does not provide her base commander with Flynn Cormac's identity and  when he returns to the base she doesn't turn him in. Flynn doesn't kill her or allow McBride to murder her, even after it seems Jubilee has killed his cousin, Sean Ahearn's nephew and other children. Eventually Jubilee and Flynn come to love one another, despite their very different backgrounds, mirroring the romance between Tarver and Lilac in the first novel.

Besides the story of Avon and the blossoming love between Jubilee and Flynn, Kaufman and Spooner continue to develop the storyline involving the sentient life form discovered in the dimensional rift on the planet in the first novel. Those beings are also on Avon where LaRoux attempted to recreate the dimensional rift. Jubilee manages to speak with one of the whispers who tells her that they have been with her for some time now, since she was a child on Verona. The whisper is what Jubilee thought was a ghost when she was a child. The whisper reveals that they were moved from Verona to Avon  and that they were forced to make the people on Verona kill her parents. They did not understand what they were doing because death does not exist for them and were told that if they did this they would be sent home. Instead they were sent to Avon by Laroux where they were tortured.  The pain they suffer has driven most of the whispers to become different, "to fall into violence and despair, into pain" causing harm to the people on Avon. This whisper however, understands humans better because of its relationship with Jubilee. It recognizes that humans are different -- they can be individuals but for the whispers, to be alone is agony as they are made to be connected to each other.Concerned that the other whispers will harm humans, the whisper convinces Jubilee that she must destroy the base which is being powered by their own energy. This will destroy them but force them to keep their knowledge of the human world secret.

This Shattered World is another fine novel by this amazing duo. Fans of science fiction will find a compelling mixture of romance, suspense and action. I can't wait for the next novel!

Book Details:
This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
Los Angeles: Hyperion     2015
390 pp.

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