Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Their Fractured Light by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

Their Fractured Light is the final installment in the Starbound Series by Kaufman and Spooner. Like its predecessors, it features a new couple in their battle against LaRoux Industries, but this time brings together the couples from the previous two novels. It is set in Corinth, the capital of the galaxy.

Seventeen year old Sofia Quinn is in the holosuite at LaRoux Industries Headquarters where she's supposed to meet up with Sanjano Rao. Sofia's here for one thing and that's to hopefully gain information to help her take out the president of LaRoux for what he did to her father on Avon.She's been chasing LaRoux for a year, changing identities, moving from place to place and attempting to remove her gentag. Sofia knows that there is supposed to be a large protest today against LaRoux Industries.

The hologram projects a beautiful scene, green grass dappled with brilliant sunlight and blue skies. Sofia knows the holosuite is part of Roderick LaRoux's new outreach program designed to make people forget Flynn Cormac's broadcast from Avon a year ago. Sofia is in the holosuite waiting to meet up with Sanjano Rao.

Sofia notices a young man in a LaRoux uniform seated on the floor in the holosuite watching her. It appears that after doing something on his laptop the hologram crashes revealing a large upright metal ring in the middle of the room. Sofia knows this is not a projector. The boy quickly changes his top so that he looks like the others in the room as security announces that there has been a security breach originating in the holosuite. Sofia knows she has to get out of the holosuite because her gentag tattoo will reveal her as being from Avon, linking her to the protesters.

As the security guards begin funneling people out of the room, Sofia desperately tries to find a way to escape. She approaches a guard and pointing to the boy, she asks him to help her fiance who has a "condition". Just at this time the boy collapses to the ground, foaming at the mouth, catching both the security and Sofia off guard. At this time the metal ring in the center of the holosuite begins to turn on. The people become quiet as they watch "little flickers of blue light" around the ring's edge. Quickly the metal ring becomes covered in blue light. With everyone distracted by what is happening Sofia and the boy begin to make their way to the unguarded emergency exit. Sofia looks back to see the center of the ring now filled with brilliant light. The people around the ring begin to collapse to the floor. In the middle of the ring, on the other side of the curtain of energy, Sofia can see the empty faces of people, their eyes black.

As Gideon and Sofia race down the hallway they introduce themselves to one another, although Sofia tells Gideon her name is Alexis. For a diversion, Gideon makes the building believe there is a fire in the stairwell, hoping that people will move to the opposite side of the building. The two puzzle over what they've just seen in the holosuite. In the stairwell they run into more security who fire on them as they leave the building, wounding Gideon. Sofia manages to convince a taxi driver to take them to the Regency Towers where they abandon the cab without paying and flee to her apartment in Camelot Heights.

In her apartment, Sofia mends Gideon's wounded arm and they share information about themselves. Gideon tells Sofia his name and she tells him she was at LaRoux because of her father. They discuss what happened to the metal ring with Gideon telling her that he has seen a metal ring like the one in the holosuite before. Sofia tells him she has seen people who look like those on the holosuite, people with "Eyes like darkness. People whose minds have been stolen, turning them into those...those husks."  However they both hide information from each other too. Gideon doesn't tell Sofia that he was at LRI to try to track down Commander Antje Towers, the woman who helped LaRoux conceal what happened on Avon. Gideon was first involved by a request for security assistance from Lilac LaRoux. He knows that LaRoux has exported his experiments to three planets: Verona, Avon and Corinth. When she won't tell him where she's seen the people he knows that it was likely on Avon. He tells her that he knows the metal ring was on another planet but he doesn't mention that it was on Verona. When Sofia asks what it is for, Gideon does not tell her that it is a device that imprisons creatures from another dimension. He only tells her that it is a rift on Corinth.

Sofia refuses Gideon's suggestion that they work together. Gideon asks her if she's heard of the Knave of Hearts and tells her that the stories she's heard are mostly not true. Sofia doesn't realize that Gideon is the Knave. In payment for fixing his arm, Gideon leaves her with a way to secretly contact him. A few days after this, Sofia is attacked in her apartment by LaRoux's men and kidnapped. But before she is taken away, she manages to get a coded message to Gideon asking her to help him. He realizes that she's been taken by LaRoux's men. He contacts his friend Mae to help him track where she's been taken.

It turns out Sofia's been taken to LaRoux's headquarters where she is interrogated by his men about Gideon. She refuses to reveal what she knows so on orders from LaRoux they prepare to start up the ring and open the rift to turn her into one of the husks. Fortunately, Gideon is able to rescue Sofia and the two escape to his hidden high security den located in the slums on the lower level of Corinth. In Gideon's den, Sofia offers to work together with him although their objectives are very different. She requests that he not tell the Knave of Hearts, who has been pursuing her for months, not knowing that Gideon is the Knave. She also reveals her real name is Sofia.

Sofia knows that LaRoux will not stop hunting for them since they know about the rift in LRI. She remembers the Avon Broadcast in which Flynn Cormac spoke about "creatures" they called "whispers" who are from another universe and who can affect people's minds. the creatures come from hyperspace and closing off their universe would mean destroying the ability to communicate and travel between the different planets in this universe. Gideon tells Sofia that they need to fight LaRoux and not the whispers. "There's nothing we can do against being that can reach inside your head, but we can stop what they're being used to do. Whatever it is." He also believes that the survivors of the Icarus encountered the "whispers" when they were stranded.

While Gideon wants to remain quiet for several weeks Sofia tells him they need to act. She indicates that while at LRI she learned they intend to fix the rift within the week. This coincides with the grand opening of the Daedalus museum commemorating the Icarus tragedy, which will be attended by the planetary envoys at the peace summit. She believes that LaRoux wants to gain control of the senators in the same way he did to the people on Avon. This would allow him to control the entire galaxy. Based on the information Sofia has received both she and Gideon believe there could be a rift on board the Daedalus. Can the two of them learn to trust one another enough to stop Roderick LaRoux and save both humans and the creatures from hyperspace?


Kaufman and Spooner have collaborated to create a brilliant conclusion to this unique science fiction trilogy. Their Fractured Light brings together the main characters from the previous two novels to tie up all the loose ends quite neatly. The series focused on three couples: Tarver Merendenson and Lilac LaRoux who initially discover the rift between the two universes, the creatures from another universe whom they name "whispers" who are imprisoned and her father's "research" on them, Flynn Cormac and Jubilee Chase who uncover "whispers" imprisoned on Avon in a secret research station, and Gideon and Sofia Quinn who each have lost someone dear to them as a result of Roderick LaRoux and are determined to stop him.

Their Fractured Light has three distinct narratives: Gideon, Sofia and the "whispers" one of whom is now is trapped in the human universe. As in the previous two novels, the main characters are a young man and woman who are initially at odds but who come to understand each other and fall in love.  In Their Fractured Light, Gideon and Sofia are thrown together much like Tarver and Lilac were in the first novel. Like Tarver and Lilac they have prejudices towards one another and do not trust each other as both have criminal pasts. As a result they both withhold vital information that might help them achieve their goal of stopping LaRoux. However as they spend more time, they begin to uncover the truth about one another. Gideon, who is a hacker known as the Knave of Hearts, believes he has been pursuing Commander Anjte Towers who helped LaRoux hide what happened on Avon. Instead he learns that Towers assumed Sofia's identity when she left Avon and it is Sofia he's been tracking all this time. When Sofia who has been stalked for months by the Knave, is shocked to discover the boy she is falling for is the man pursuing her she feels betrayed and scared. Because of their past choices, neither is now able to trust the other, despite their intense feelings for one another. Their struggle to trust each other becomes one of the main themes of the novel.

Sofia believes that Gideon doesn't really know her and therefore can't love her. But he assures her that he knows her and does trust her. However, even after hearing each other say they trust the other, both still have their doubts because they believe the other might just be saying what wants to be heard.What eventually convinces Sofia to take the risk to trust is Gideon's belief that the whispers may have been observing them, seeing all their communications in hyperspace and watching the three couples to see the choices they have made.

"The other whispers, in their universe on the other side of the rift, have been watching us. Judging us, testing us, setting us up like pieces on a board to see who we are. And if Gideon can know me, love me, trust me and I can learn that lesson in return -- if we and all our friends and allies can make choices and sacrifices that come from our hearts -- then I'm ready for us to be judged."

Following in the example of Tarver and Lilac, Sofia decides to trust Gideon fully and to trust the whispers. She will open the rift, allowing the whispers in the other dimension to help the tortured whisper threatening their world with catastrophic destruction. Likewise, Gideon decides to show his trust in her by accompanying her into the rift.

Another dominant theme in this novel is that of choice and whether or not the choices we make define us. Both the humans and the whispers must make choices. For humans, choice is a part of life, but for the whispers, choice is a very new idea.

The whisper narratives reveal that these sentient beings "have always been one entity, infinite selves all linked, every thought shared." From "thin spots" they begin observing humans, intrigued by their individuality. The scientists probe the thing spot causing them pain. Some whispers are imprisoned and tortured. They discover there are more like LaRoux and to decide to observe them "to understand. To decide whether their existence is worth knowing..." They discover there is much anger in humans and that they "cannot see into each other as we can and therefore they know each other only through the words they invent." The whispers decide to follow six humans who have suffered loss and pain. Meanwhile, one of the whispers who is separated from his kind, grows to know hate and desires to kill the humans. When that whisper is able to take over Lilac it begins destroying the human world. It is the choice of Sofia and Gideon to open the rift that enables the whispers to rescue their separated one.

Because of their contact with humans in the "thin spots" where the two universes meshed, the whispers have been changed. This has led to conflict within their universe, some want to close their universe to humans and become one entity again, while others are curious about the possibility of becoming unique. In the end, they must make a choice, as they tell Lilac, to "Blow open this rift for good, allow our kind to explore your world and understand it, and there is no guarantee your human qualities would not eventually destroy us, as they destroyed our last emissary. Or, sever your universe's ties to ours once and for all, guaranteeing the survival of our species..." Choice is difficult for them because all possibilities exist. They wish Lilac to choose for them. But she refuses. Instead Lilac tells them that humans use the good experiences and emotions their choices bring them as a shield for the bad, and that they can teach the whispers to do the same.

The whisper narrative goes a long way to filling in the backstory for the trilogy. Kaufman and Spooner do a great job of weaving together all the elements from the three novels into a thrilling and satisfying conclusion. Many of the characters in the earlier novels appear in this finale. Roderick LaRoux is the quintessential villain out for universe-domination at any cost. He never sees the whispers as anything but creatures to be used for his own gain.

The Starbound series is a must for science fiction buffs. Well written, beautiful covers, interesting characters and an attractive story all make this an excellent series for teens and adults alike.

Book Details:

Their Fractured Light by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
New York: Hyperion, an imprint of Disney Book Group 2015
432 pp.

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