Reviews

TO SLEEP IN A SEA OF STARS, by Christopher Paolini

I received this novel from Tor Books through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review: my thanks to both of them for this opportunity.

I was very curious to sample Christopher Paolini’s writing: although aware of his Inheritance fantasy cycle, I never read it, and the brief excerpt for To Sleep in a Sea of Stars that I found online, once the campaign for this book was launched, sounded very intriguing, sporting many of the elements I enjoy in Science Fiction. Unfortunately, after a promising and intriguing beginning, I felt myself progressively losing interest in the story and I had to abandon it at the 32% mark – namely at page 262 of its quite considerable 800+ pages run.

In short, the novel focuses on Kira Navarez, an exobiologist attached to a corporation conducting feasibility studies on planets marked for possible colonization. At the beginning of the story Kira and the rest of the team are preparing to leave their latest assignment when in the course of a last-minute survey Kira stumbles on an alien artifact: this encounter leaves her profoundly – even dangerously – changed and launches a series of events culminating in an alien invasion and a devastating intergalactic war.

Where the premise sounds intriguing – and there is no doubt that the inciting incident back at the base has a delightfully creepy Alien vibe – the execution did not meet my (admittedly fastidious) tastes. The novel leans heavily toward plot rather than characterization, and this for me is certainly a problem because I need to connect with characters to enjoy a story; moreover, what characterization there was – either concerning Kira or the secondary figures – felt flat and at times more in service of the plot than of the characters themselves.

Kira’s personality is very contradictory: she is presented as an exobiologist driven by the need to explore new worlds, to apply her knowledge to the expansion of humanity, and yet once she falls in love with one of her co-workers and he proposes marriage she’s ready to throw it all to the four winds in exchange for marital bliss, children and the dream of a white-fenced house.  Then she is subjected to a very traumatic loss and even more traumatic experiences of torture and experimentation, and yet none of this seems to leave her with any permanent scars, or the remotest hint of PTSD.  To top it all off, she evolves in a very, very short period of time from a mousy, lab-bound scientists into this super-hero, ass-kicking warrior without any perceivable hint of how the transformation took place.

Secondary characters fare little better, since they looked to me more formulaic than gifted with distinctive personalities, and so we have, for example, a lovably roguish ship captain; a stern, uncompromising XO; a kindly doctor; and the required gangly and goofy teenager. All of the above provided sometimes wooden, sometimes embarrassing dialogues that although set into a highly energetic but somewhat confused story made my progress through the novel an arduous slog, compounded by what looked like excessive wordiness.  Still, I tried to soldier on because the angle of the alien invasion, with its hordes of weird, scary creatures, is certainly intriguing, but I was also puzzled by the overall tone which at times seemed to veer toward YA standards, although the novel is labeled as adult fiction – a prime example being the description of shipboard pets which include a cat and a pig (yes, a pig, I kid you not), both of them provided with velcro-like adhesive pads so they could move in free fall….

While I can see the potential for this story, I have to acknowledge my disappointment in the way it is delivered: it is certainly a classic case of “it’s not you, it’s me” and I’m looking forward to learning what other fellow bloggers will think of this novel, particularly when I’m aware of the finicky personal tastes I quoted above. 

My Rating:

44 thoughts on “TO SLEEP IN A SEA OF STARS, by Christopher Paolini

  1. Ye don’t sound finicky at all. This just doesn’t sound well done and also sounds too long. The idea of there being torture is enough for me to skip this one. The fact that the character just kinds of brushes it off doesn’t help either. I wasn’t planning on reading this one unless it had stellar reviews but now I certainly will not. Excellent review matey.
    x The Captain

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I was initially tempted to request/pre-order this one but I couldn’t help but feel there was a little too much hype. Reading the reviews it really does seem as though it’s missed the mark, 800+ pages isn’t something you can, or should, slog through!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. OH NO OH NO OH NO OH NO OH NO OH NOOOOO!!!! I have pre-ordered it and been waiting SOOO EAGERLY TO READ ITTT!!! I haven’t read The Inherityence Cycle either, you know! I WAS…AHHH!!! BUT…I can see that your points are valid and I just…Mads!!! *heartbreak* *crying* *wailing* WHAT WILL I DOO NOWWW!?!?!?!?! Guess I still gotta read it now that I have ordered it but…I have no hopes for this one now! *shrugs* ;p xD

    Still LOVED your honest and thoroughly detailed review, AS ALWAYS!!! ❤ ❤ ❤

    AND HEY, YOU HAVE CHANGED THE FEATURED IMAGE ON YOUR BLOG?!? It looks AWESOME! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sorry to have spoiled your surprise and anxious wait for the book 😢 and I would like to remind you that I often disliked books that many other readers loved, so there is still hope… I’m very interested to see what your take on this story will be, once you get to read it!

      And yes, I changed the top image because I like to get a… fresh coat of paint for my blog now and then… 😊

      Like

  4. I’m so sad!! I was hoping for at least a good enough story to pull me through the pages, but it sounds like this might be an uphill battle. I will still try it, but I’ll curb my expectations😁

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I know it’s on your TBR and I’m very, very interested to learn what you think of it: I’m aware of the fact that I could not get through books others loved (The Martian being a prime example, just to quote one), so hearing a different point of view from people whose opinions I trust will be very helpful! 🙂

      Like

  5. I’ve been waiting to see reviews of this, because it’s a rare book that is 800 pages long and fulfills expectations. (I can really only think of two authors who do it well…) Hope your next read is better!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Personally, I would not let another reviewer deter me away from buying a book. Special interests can make or break it. In any case, I have seen a bunch of advertising for this book (FB, Ig) and was interested to get someone’s opinion on it, so thanks for that. Cheers =D

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I read and loved his Inheritance trilogy but, I read the first book when I was 9 years old and I don’t plan on re-reading it soon. I know it would probably taint my fond memories.
    I have read very mixed things about this book so I’m not surprised it didn’t work for you either. I was intrigued by the fact that it was Paolini’s adult debut but, if it reads as very YA and it has poor characterization, I’m not interested.
    Thank you for your review! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I’m currently about 35% into the audiobook and I’m enjoying it… just not as much as I had hoped. I’m also seeing (and agreeing with!) many of the issues you experienced. We’ll see how it goes!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Ooh, this is on the reading schedule, coming up after I finished a few more books in fact. I didn’t read your review to keep my eyes fresh but your final rating now scares me, lol! I have the audiobook though, narrated by one of my favorite video game voice actresses though, which hopefully will make it easier to get through!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Ouch! I’ve not read any of his earlier work, but I’m generally aware of it, and I wondered how the transition from writing for a younger audience to an adult audience would work. Sounds like he might not quite be there yet. And with such a long book… those tend to make me think twice before trying anyway. I’ll certainly keep an open mind and see what some others think of it before making up my mind whether to try it, but I appreciate your review and your opinions of it.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. I have to say that I giggled that the sight of this book’s rating considering that your last tag mentioned that you’re sooooooooo not likely to pick up a 1-star book in the near future hahahahaha

    That being said, I am truly sorry that you had to go through a little chunk of this one though. I hate going through an SFF title marketed for adults but written with an overall YA tone. It has to be one of the worse things anyone could do to me.

    I do hope the next book you read turned out much better than this one did! Great honest review. 😀

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks! And yes, I did think back to that consideration about 1-star books and wondered if this not-so-lucky encounter was a matter of karma 😀
      Still, considering the number of books we all read in one year, there is bound to be a (hopefully small) number of them that prove disappointing…

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Oh that’s so disappointing – I always regret the time I spend with books I didn’t really enjoy! I’ve seen several DNF and low rated reviews crop up over the last few days for this… and now you’ve rated it quite low I definitely won’t be picking this up!

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Oh dear – I’m SO sorry. I was watching this one with interest as I DNF’d Eregon after a handful of pages because of the quality of the writing – and I was hoping he’d improved. Kudos to you for sticking with this one!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Well, I gave up before the 1/3 mark, so I don’t deserve any congratulations…
      I had high hopes for this one, because the excerpt that circulated online was very promising, but it turned out to be like some movie trailers, that show the best while the rest of the movie is somewhat disappointing 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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