Today is RELEASE DAY for Michelle Birbeck’s latest novel: The Stars Are Falling
It’s a Young Adult Sci-Fi adventure and it’s pleased I am to be able to be a part of her blog tour.
Nineteen-year-old Jenny is more content staring at the night sky than joining her friends on a night on the town. She’s only known them two months, since classes began for her second year at university, but she’s already head over heels with one of her housemates, Dale. Every conversation she’s had with Dale has ended with her stuttering out an excuse to escape.
Then the first meteor blazes through the night, landing close enough to shake the house. Suddenly, she’s the one with all the answers, the one her friends and Dale turn to. Having spent so much time glued to a telescope, they expect her to know what’s happening. But Jenny’s never seen a meteor big enough to impact, and certainly never the thing that rises from the crater.
It’s a man who glows with a light so hot, everything in its path is disintegrated. Soon after, the night sky is turned to day, coming alive with hundreds more, all with one mission: rid Earth of that which is killing her.
Earth has been watched, and the things watching have decided that the human race’s time is up. Too much damage has been done, and they have decided that it’s time to let Earth recover, to start again. The only way they see that happening is by wiping out the human race.
Jenny knows another way, one that will save both Earth and humanity. But it isn’t simply a case of finding the nearest official and explaining everything. No one wants to listen to a nineteen-year-old and her friends. They must take their idea directly to the Stars and somehow convince them to listen. But to get there they first have to survive, and survival comes at a price.
First, check out this cover. It’s a great cover. Please note the falling stars in the black shadow of the person. And that white? It’s not what you might think! Read the book and draw your own conclusion. I did!
Second, this is a book set (mostly) in York and that vicinity. I have never been to England and am not always conversant with English terms, but this is a story written by an Englishwoman and once I remembered the American equivalents for “jumper” and “torch” and “boot” I did better.
Birbeck starts her readers off with a preface that is ominous but intriguing. A child’s view of her mother putting her to bed seems innocuous enough, but the line “I had never seen my mother cry before that night,” puts a bit of a spin on it. The preface is important, of course, but it won’t really make sense for quite some time…and this is a good thing. The intrigue is important.
The descriptions of this book, given in the voice of our nineteen-year-old heroine, are fun and contemporary and eminently readable.
…her already tiny purple skirt riding up somewhere between too short and illegal.
…refers to one of Jennifer’s housemates, Alexis, who is a college student with an eye for bright fashion moments.
Another lovely image Birbeck gives us is this:
The night sky exploded to life with the absence of light. Stars greedily stole the light from the Earth and gave it back to us with a silvery hint.
This terrific image is especially effective becomes it comes after a terrifying shockwave has apparently taken out the power following what seems to have been a meteorite landing on the earth. There is fear, but there is also beauty in our heroine’s eyes and that’s a lovely sequence.
Birbeck’s story here is pretty basic. There’s a supernatural “bad thing” of sorts and a young human (Jennifer) knows how to make it better by virtue of both who she is and what she knows. Jennifer is joined by her housemates and the young man whom she fancies (surprise! it’s mutual!) and the four of them have to deal with a lot of heavy, earth-shaking stuff in a very short period of time. These things include the loss of Jennifer’s dad (he abandoned the family when she was little), the appearance of the glowing people mentioned in the blurb above, the very human reactions all over to the invasion of these people, and so on. There is violence (muted), terror, and suspense.
The author is also good about giving us some smiles, though, in the midst of all of this. The relationship between Jennifer and Dale is sweet. At times, it seems to move too fast, but I reminded myself that in times of stress, life is lived in large gulps and small moments and emotions can be forged into tight bonds in short order. There are also interesting characters we meet along the way, like the candy store owners, who remind us that a bright spot can always be found.
Jennifer had to learn these things, too, and also had to learn about herself.
[Dale] cut me off with a kiss. “It’s as good as family. We’re not blood, but blood counts for nothing when you abandon it.”
His words reminded me that as much as I wanted to be an island, my friends were the waves, caressing the edges of my life every day.
The story took an unusual turn that I won’t spoil for you here. But it put a different perspective on a lot of things, including cosmology, that I am not sure I personally could get behind. But, it is Science FICTION, after all, and that smooths a lot of wrinkles.
This was an entertaining read and suited the genre well. There’s romance, there’s unresolved sexual tension, there’s a carefully limited cast of characters that we need to keep track of while exploring the world the way Michelle Birbeck is presenting it, here. Will it end the way you expected? Probably not—I know I was surprised!
But being surprised is a good thing. I hope you’ll discover this, too. I thank the author and TWCS for giving me a complimentary copy for review.
About the Author:
Michelle is 28 and has been reading and writing her whole life. Her earliest memory of books was when she was five and decided to try and teach her fish how to read by putting her Beatrix Potter books in the fish tank with them.
Since then her love of books has grown, and now she is writing her own and looking forward to seeing them on her shelves, though they won’t be going anywhere near the fish tank.
When she’s not writing, she’s out and about on her motorbike or sitting with her head in a book.