To Sleep In A Sea Of Stars
Written by Christopher Paolini
Published by Tor
September 15, 2020
Paperback, 1024 pages
I like Christopher Paolini still and I’m sticking to it.
A few years ago we had reported that Paolini was venturing outside the fantasy world of his amazing Inheritance Cycle and stepping into the world of science fiction. This would be a first for him. He had the books in the series written and would be releasing one each year. I was excited because I was a huge fan of Eragon and the other books after a good friend recommended them (she also said to skip the movie, which I have even though I like Jeremy Irons). I quickly finished the books and painfully waited for the final book Inheritance to be released. (At least Paolini didn’t take as long as some other authors…). Normally, sci-fi books are not in my usual rotation, but since I enjoyed Paolini’s other books, I thought why not.
Not disappointed at all.
Years into our future, humanity has colonized beyond our system. Kira Navárez’s work as a xenobiologist with a private company places her on an uncolonized plant doing studies. During a routine survey mission, an accident causes her to make the discovery of a lifetime, which turns into both a dream and nightmare for her as well as the rest of the galaxy. War breaks out between humans and alien lifeforms, which are actually two groups who are in a timeless war with each other as well as trying to find Kira and her discovery – each for their own different reasons. This starts a trip down a road to first contact and discoveries that she’s only had dreams about, learning about herself and how she may be the only hope in this war to save humanity.
One of the talents I found Paolini had with his Inheritance Cycle was his world building. I felt he left no stone hidden on Alagaësia. He was thorough in his descriptions and if something was mentioned in the story, he made sure to let the reader know its importance. He does not add fluff to his writing. It’s the same here. I find science fiction tougher because it’s not like fantasy where you can say something is so and have no logical reason behind it because it’s “made up”. Science fiction, in my opinion, will be made up but it also has to have some sound logic as well. This science could happen in our life as we have seen before. Paolini even has appendixes at the end to explain some of the scientific theories that occur in the book. He also includes a glossary of terms. I like this because it helps readers like myself who are not familiar with certain scientific theories (like FTL) learn more.
But back to his world building: now that humans have moved off Earth, there are several locations the story takes place and since this is not all on one planet like his other books, there’s much more for him to first introduce, second describe, and third give the reader a sense of how HUGE the universe is. Traveling from one place to another is no simple feat. And with the situation Kira is in, you really get to feel that commute time.
Another talent of Paolini’s is his character development. Kira is a simple enough woman who grew up in a colony and went into a field that her family supported even if she only makes it home every few years. What complicates her life is the discovery of a xeno that she becomes attached to. Quite literally. The bond between them opens up a world of insight into herself but also an alien life beyond her understanding. Similar to the bond between Eragon and his dragon, they are two separate identities who are one.
The spaceship crew that rescues her is at first simply giving her passage to a colony, but she soon finds a home among the complex group of people with diverse pasts. There’s the military vet, a scientific colony doctor, a starving homeless teen, and of course, a pirate of some sorts. Each of their unique personalities provide something to Kira’s growth as a person and, well… something else I don’t want to talk much on and spoil the story. I especially love the ship’s mind, Gregorovich. Ships are essentially run by the brains of humans who have died. They are transferred into a machine and are smarter than almost….well, everything. It should say something when Kira explains the massive psychological processes they go through yearly to make sure they’re not going mad. But it’s his logic and dry humor that adds an odd lightness to the humans’ situation. He talks in riddles and refers to the humans as “meatbags”. How can you not like this mind?
As for the story? It holds up. As soon as I picked up the book, I didn’t want to put it down. As I mentioned, the world building, learning more about the characters, their interactions with everything from the ship to the science to other beings. And what I find best is this is just our beginning voyage into what is Paolini’s Fractalverse. Yup, we get more. To Sleep In A Sea Of Stars is a good solid opening for wherever he takes us. He has set the stage to move us farther into the universe to continue on the mission Kira and her xeno are on. Similar to Eragon’s journey, you’re not quite sure if you will see the other characters again and I assume we will, hopefully, but I know that Paolini will not leave the reader hanging with half-baked characters even if we see them for only a few moments. His detail is in everything.
I’m looking forward to his next entry into the Fractalverse, Unity. It’s an online supplement story where you have a mission before you go into the third installment. Different but interesting in my opinion.
If you’re a fan of Christopher Paolini’s work, then pick up this book. You won’t be disappointed.