Tuesday, January 2, 2018

BOOK REVIEW: The Universe Between Us

Ana is a 26-year-old biochemist whose mother has raised her to be part of a private corporation's mission to colonize Mars. She's been training for it since she was 13. Part of her training included building a self-sufficient farmhouse. The problem is she needs someone to take care of it when she's gone if she doesn't want it to fall into dilapidation.

Jolie, a student at the local university, answers her ad for a roommate in order to cut down on living expenses, quit her job, and make more time for her art. The two are immediately attracted to one another, but Ana can't tell Jolie anything about the upcoming mission. All Jolie knows is that Ana will be going away and soon. Is the chance at love, even if it's short-lived, worth it?

This story is set in a realistic near future, one where Earth is becoming less and less habitable, forcing humanity to turn to the next closest planet. Esther threads in details about what this future is like--automatic cars, screens everywhere, bracelets that let people take video calls. It's nothing earthshattering in terms of technology, but these details are enjoyable glimpses of the world, and Esther utilizes them well. If anything, I wanted more from the science. Ana is a biochemist and in charge of the colony's food supply. She mentions experiments but doesn't go in depth. I thought this aspect could have been explored more, but I did like what was there.

I felt like the writing could've been polished a bit more. I liked Jolie and Ana, but I didn't get enough of a sense of who they were outside their relationship. That's partly a constraint of the plot because the characters need to get together if Ana's upcoming departure is going to have emotional heft. I would've liked to see more of Jolie's life at the university and more of Ana's life in her terrarium and with her experiments. I would've been more accepting of it, I think, if the dialogue had felt more natural. It's sometimes stilted, and characters jump from one subject to another without Esther giving us their inner thoughts to make that jump. It was off just enough that it sometimes popped me out of the story.

I'm okay with endings being neatly tied up. However, where this one lost me was in the conflict that separates Jolie and Ana. Without giving much away, if Ana's job was so important, I would think there would be measures in place for replacements, maybe even an entire B-crew. In this way, the conflict felt a little too contrived for me to be worried about the fate of their relationship.

Overall, this was a relaxing, breezy read, perfect for huddling up indoors when it's cold outside. I'd recommend it to readers who are romance fans.

Thanks to NetGalley, Bold Strokes Books, and Jane C. Esther for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

No comments:

Post a Comment