I’ve never got round to reading The 100, though my mum and brother are fans of the TV series. I saw Light Years pop up on Read Now on Netgalley, and thought I’d give Kass Morgan a chance, finally!
Book: Light Years by Kass Morgan
Read before: No
Ownership; E-ARC provided by NetGalley for fair review.
Light Years is the story of the first class at the Quatran Fleet Academy to accept people from all four planets in their system, rather than just the elite planet Tri. We follow four students in this class, who end up in the same crew, competing against other crews to win the #1 spot in the end-of-year grading. There’s a political undercurrent that all the students have to deal with, since many people are not happy about the admittance of the newcomers, and there’s a fair amount of regular school drama, with academic pressure, friendships, and romances proving testing. It’s like Ender’s Game meets Riverdale.
The world(s)-building here is well-sketched, with some clever things to say about racism and colonialism, but it’s never heavily dumped. There are four planets in the Quatran system: Tri, who have put themselves in charge of all the others, and Chetire, Loos, and Deva, which are less well-developed, and are regarded with varying degrees of pity and disgust. The integration of the new students into the school leads to a lot of tension, which is expressed both subtly (students mostly choosing to hang out with their planet-mates) and overtly (bullying, racist graffiti, rumours of special treatment). As well as these tensions within the school, there is also the problem of the Specters, an alien race from another planet, who attacked the Quatran solar system recently and could attack again imminently.
I’m not usually a huge fan of multi-POV narration, since I often find that either A) the voices are too similar and I can’t tell who’s talking, or B) one plotline is significantly more interesting than another. However, I found all four narrator characters to be distinct and well-written, so that was a nice surprise. We have Vesper, a Tri girl, the daughter of an admiral, who has an enormous amount of pressure on her to do well, both from herself and her mum. Then there’s Arran, an awkward genius from Chetire, one of the outsider planets, whose main plot revolves around his romance with Dash, the son of a bigoted Tri commander; Cormak, a smart but disadvantaged guy from Deva, who secretly takes his brother’s place in the Fleet after his brother’s death; and Orelia, who claims to be from Loos, but is actually a spy from the Specters…
All four have compelling plotlines as they struggle with the demands of the academy as well as their own secrets, and they all interact with each other throughout, so you never find that isolation of plotlines (as, for example, with Game of Thrones). I actually liked all of them for different reasons, though I think my favourites were Vesper and Orelia. Vesper because she’s the classic overachiever, and Orelia because her mindset was so very different from the others (I loved the details like her confusion about the abundance of food, or her reluctance to decorate).
This is not a drastically original book, beyond the world-building. The romances are all predictable, as is the overall plot (which largely follows the model of Ender’s Game, in terms of spaceship training being simulations, followed by a final real-world test). If you took the space part away, and had the characters competing at an academy for sport or art or whatever, this could easily be reworked into a YA contemporary. But you know what? It was extremely good fun! A nice easy read, with engaging characters and a pacy plot. It’s very clearly set up for a sequel, which I’m looking forward to. If you’re in the mood for a space high-school story, you should enjoy this a lot. Four out of five cats!