Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Stars Blue Yonder by Sandra McDonald

When I write a review, I'm sometimes a bit in a quandary about how much I should give away. When does a tidbit stop being a tidbit and start being a spoiler? Fortunately, the blurb for The Stars Blue Yonder includes all the elements I want to write about, so I don't think I'll blunder into any spoilers. Here it is, straight from Tor:

Chief Terry Myell died and became a god. Now he’s back to life, careening around space and time at the behest of a voice that told him to save all of mankind. Helping and hindering this quest are his elderly wife, his young wife, grandchildren who haven’t been born yet, romantic rivals he hasn’t even met, a descendant from two thousand years in the future, and an alien nemesis who calls itself the Flying Doctor. Life in the military has never been so complicated.

Commander Jodenny Scott would agree. She’s seven months pregnant and trying to come to peace with her husband’s death. When Myell reappears with tales of time travel, she’s not sure what to believe.

But with an invading army bearing down on Earth’s last fleet of spaceships, there’s not much time for debate. When the dust clears Jodenny is stranded in an Australia she never imagined, and Myell’s more desperate than ever to rescue her—from aliens, from treachery, and from history itself.

Yay! I can write about the time travel! Because ultimately, that's what makes this book so deliciously fun.

I love time travel fiction. When Back to the Future came out, my husband and I must have seen it in the theater at least ten times. And many times after that on various forms of video. Now we have the boxed set.

Where to start? My friend and blog buddy Kimber An is going to think this is the answer to her book prayers. I'm not sure if she'll like the first book, but if she can get through the first and second, she'll flip out over the third. It features a pregnant heroine who is part of a happily married--if often separated--couple. And midway through the book--while she is unexpectedly centuries in the past--she finds herself acting as a midwife! Courtesy of her Digital Doula--yes, you read that right--she's an expert on childbirth. And darn it if those nineteenth century women have all kinds of crazy notions about pregnancy and giving birth.

Do you get the notion that this book is different yet? And, if I might use the same words as many reviewers before me, it is fresh, original and probably like nothing you've read in science fiction before.

Ok, I'd better get serious about this review.

It picks up right where The Stars Down Under left off. If you haven't read that novel before, I'm afraid the blurb above is a bit of a giveaway. But it really would not have been possible to write the blurb without giving away the fact that Terry is back. And he's not a god anymore. As it turns out, that was a Terry from a different timeline.

Kind of.

All those time travel rules you read about in other stories? Forget about them. Ms. McDonald has figured out a neat way around the problems of time travel in a totally plausable way. Well, plausable in a world that includes time travel.

Anyway, Terry is stuck in a time loop and is trying to find his way out. You feel for the guy. It's maddening, kind of like that loop in the movie Groundhog Day, except this look jumps him to different points in time. Always near Jodenny. Who sometimes doesn't even know who he is, or doesn't believe its him, depending on when he goes to.

And just when you reach the point where it is starting to get too maddening, he gets a bit of a break. Ms. McDonald really has great timing in this case.

Before I get carried away by too much gushing (or is it too late?), let me get some critiques out of the way. One of them is that a character keeps urging Terry on, but is unable to help him out with any specific instructions. He basically appears to Terry long enough to complain that he should have figured it all out by now. This is a plot device I've seen before--some sort of Seer who has knowledge that he cannot reveal to the reader because it would make the story end too quickly. Now in this case, I didn't want the story to end too quickly. But it was still a small annoyance.

Well, I guess it was only one critique. I can't remember the others, if I had any.

I'm already way over wordcount and I haven't even mentioned Sam Osherman. I'd better stop here.

This is a science fantasy novel with a great mythology, a fun plot and likable heroes and heroines. The pages just flew by. The end of the novel brings this storyline to a close, but leaves other questions unanswered, which might be answered in future books.

And when Kimber finds out what Terry and Jodenny names the baby, I do believe she will scream out loud.

Sandra McDonald's Website and Blog
The novel at Tor  
Heather's Author Supernova on Sandra McDonald at Galaxy Express (still in-process, so the link is to the site)
Amazon USA - UK - Canada


Heather Massey said...

Great review! I agree that Kimber An would love the third book especially--heck, so would many romance readers. I really hope a lot of them take a chance on this trilogy. Very character driven and ultra romantic.

I had the pleasure of reading TSBY a few months ago and it knocked my socks off. The time travel element really provided a lot of emotional tension. I've never rooted so much for a couple to get (back) together.

And I really loved the part when Jodenny lands in Australia. OMG that was great.

I don't think I've seen BACK TO THE FUTURE as many times as you, Tia, lol, but I've seen it a lot. That trilogy is loads of fun, too.

Tia Nevitt said...

Thanks! I LOVED the Australia scenes!

Kerry said...

This sounds really good. I really enjoyed the first two books and I'm looking forward to reading this one. Sadly, I'm not managing to read at the moment for health reasons, but this is definitely at the top of my list once I can again.

orannia said...

Thank you Tia! I'm hanging out to read this!

It does sound very different to the first book, which I loved BTW (I love watching all the wheeling and dealing that occurs within a military structure) and I'm not usually a huge time travel fan (as sometimes authors use it as a 'get out of jail card) but....I just loved the first two books so this is definitely on my TBR list!

David H. said...

Are these romantic scifi novels, or scifi romances?

Tia Nevitt said...

I would call them romantic scifi novels. The romance would be a subplot, because there is a greater overarching plot concerning enemy aliens (the invading army from the blurb) that I didn't even include in my review. Sorry!

Pauline said...

How can Tor's SF novels NOT be out in ebook???? I check on it every time someone mentions it. How can any SF novel NOT be avaiable in ebook format?????

Kerry said...

Pauline, I couldn't agree more!

Tia Nevitt said...

From what I've seen in the news lately, big publishers are thinking of ebooks like movie producers think of DVDs. The thinking is that if DVDs were available when movies released on the big screen, no one would go to the theater. Publishers have come to the same conclusion. They want to give the hardcover a chance to succeed before releasing the ebook.

I was actually surprised when publishers went along with Amazon's scheme to release ten dollar ebooks with each hardcover release. It is my guess that the publishers saw an impact on their bottom line, and that influenced this decision.

However, the customer will always react negatively when you take something away from him. So this whole thing was poorly planned, from my point of view.

Kimber Li said...

Okay, I'm catching up after my own little bundle of joy made her appearance! You're all right. This DOES sound like a book I'll love. Is it too late to get sent an ARC?

Babies and Time Travel - what's not to love?

Mishel (P.S. I Love Books) said...

I really enjoyed your review Tia. I haven't heard about these books so you've definitely got me really interested in them. I'll have to check out the first book. Thank you!

Kerry said...

I got this from the library last week and started it the other day. I was happily reading, thoroughly enjoying myself, when the book jumped from p.194 to p.225 with nothing in between. It must have been misbound.

I'm so frustrated, as I really want to know what happens next, but not only is it a library book, but I'm in New Zealand. So if there second copy is also misbound (I'll be ringing tomorrow to ask them to check) goodness knows how long it will take for me to get my hands on another copy.