Sunday, March 11, 2012

On Procreation: A Review of Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan

Glow was a wild card pick for me. I really wanted to try incorporating more science fiction in my reading each month, and this was the first one I found when I went looking for them.

This YA novel focuses on Waverly and her boyfriend Kieran, members of the first generation of humans to be born in deep space. Their ship, the Empyrean, together with it's sister ship, New Horizon, serve as a kind of Noah's arc of humanity and everything they will need to survive on a New Earth after Earth as we know it has been destroyed. In a sudden and unexpected betrayal, the New Horizon attacks the Empyrean and takes all of the young girls captive. The girls are told that they're being rescued and that the Empyrean has suffered a tragic accident and all of it's inhabitants are dead. Waverly quickly sees through their lies, but is powerless to stop their plans to use the girls for their own selfish goals. Meanwhile, Kieran is left on a ship with no able bodied adults, responsible for dozens of depressed and hopeless boys. Seth, his rival, is eager to seize control, but his cruelty makes him an unfit leader and puts all of the boys in jeopardy.

Positive Comments

This is a smart book. It deals with quite a few dark and difficult topics, and does so without becoming dull or predictable. We see teens dealing with power, abuse, duty, grief, hope, and religion. I especially enjoyed Kieran's journey, in which you see him struggling to become a fit leader who provides hope and purpose, in a journey that may take him down a very dark path. This idea of whether or not it's okay to use religion and the concept of God as a leadership tool is fascinating to me, and I liked that this book looked at the issue from multiple angles.

The character development and character building is rich and detailed. Waverly was an accurately written teenage girl, struggling with enormous responsibilities that are often in opposition with her emotions. I enjoyed seeing Kieran, who was initially regarded as perfect, find chinks in his own armor and attempt to overcome them. I liked the contrast between he and Seth. I liked Seth's dark back story, and the fact that he is a dark but not necessarily evil character. I even felt that the villains were well written and, from a certain point of view, sympathetic.

Critical Comments

As far as science fiction goes, this book is light on the science. For many of us, that's a good thing. But if you really like your scifi world building to go heavy on the technical explanations, you'll be pretty out of luck with this book.

Like wise, if you're reading this for the romance, you're bound to be unimpressed. Waverly and Kieran to care greatly for one another, but they spend most of the book apart. Even when they are together, Waverly is understandably uncertain about the relationship. So I wouldn't bet any money on the staying power of that relationship.


This is a great book for both teen and adult scifi fans. It's creative, thoughtful, well paced, and well written. 3.5 stars.

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