Author: Amy Kathleen Ryan
Release Date: September 13, 2011
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Genre: Teen/YA, Dystopian, Science Fiction
Source: Curled Up with a Good Book
Rating: 4 out of 5
Waverly is the oldest female teenager aboard the spaceship Empyrean, heading for a new life on a distant planet. She is happy aboard the ship, as it’s the only life she’s ever known, and she finds companionship in Kieran, the boy who is being groomed by the captain to take over the ship one day. But when the Empyrean encounters a sister ship, the New Horizon, they can’t imagine the deep betrayals that are to come, and how far the leader of the New Horizon will go to protect her people.
Glow has been compared quite heavily to Across the Universe by Beth Revis, and on the surface, the two books do have some similarities. Both are set in a dystopian future on spaceships, both are the first in a trilogy, and both have a young man being groomed as a leader. But really, that’s where the comparisons between the two books end. Glow is a chilling tale that stands on its own two feet in the world of YA dystopian and science fiction.
The world that Waverly finds herself in as the book progresses is frightening. As a woman, I had real chills going down my spine while taking in what she and her fellow Empyrean-mates were being put through. The world building in Glow was excellent, and Ryan did an incredible job showing how a tough situation can quickly degenerate into desperation. There is a real sense of fear that permeates the novel, and readers will share that feeling as they watch this supposedly utopian society disintegrate around them.
Glow takes on many different moral issues, too many to really recount in a review. The most central, though, is that of religion, and whether it is a force for good or evil, a source of comfort or a tool for controlling others. I thought this debate was well-played through the novel, though the religious leaders that Ryan presents tend to be caricatures. She sets up some big questions that will lead into the second book, mainly about where the line is between the two extremes and what happens once that line is crossed.
The thing that Ryan does best in Glow is to create an atmosphere of uncertainty. It’s hard to separate the facts from the fiction; even though we see multiple points of view, the truth is distorted. It’s difficult to tell what is really happening, and the reader must rely on their own intuition and choose what to believe.
The characters in Glow are well drawn. Waverly is strong and capable, though her limits are tested over and over again over the course of the book. She was easy to sympathize with and I appreciated her intelligence. Kieran was more frustrating; he’s clearly weaker than Waverly and looks to others for guidance. He’s not ready to be in control yet, and when power is thrust upon him, he handles it badly. It will be interesting to see how the politics between Kieran and his ship-board rival for leadership, Seth, play out, especially because it’s unclear what Seth’s motives are and what kind of person he is.
Glow is a well-written and engaging novel. People interested in provocative fiction should definitely consider picking it up. It would make an excellent book club or group read, as it will leave you itching to discuss the issues within its pages. It’s a thoughtful novel that has me curious and impatiently anticipating the sequel.