Series: Skyward #1
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Genre/Themes: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Space Opera, Adventure
Blurb from Goodreads
Defeated, crushed, and driven almost to extinction, the remnants of the human race are trapped on a planet that is constantly attacked by mysterious alien starfighters.
Spensa, a teenage girl living among them, longs to be a pilot.
When she discovers the wreckage of an ancient ship, she realises this dream might be possible—assuming she can repair the ship, navigate flight school, and (perhaps most importantly) persuade the strange machine to help her. Because this ship, uniquely, appears to have a soul.
I’ve never been too curious to read Sanderson before now because his books just seem so long and a bit too heavy on the fantasy aspect for me but then my friend Gabby read this and her fangirling (plus personalised rec) and also because it’s scifi really convinced me that now was the time to cash in my Sanderson v-card.
And wow am I happy I did because this book was hella fun!!!
I’ve always been a sucker for science fiction and space opera tv and film; reared on a diet of Star Wars, Star Trek, Farscape, Hitchhiker’s etc etc… And so this book appealed to that aspect of my personality.
Skyward follows teenage Spensa as she fights preconceived ideas about her temperament in her efforts to become a pilot.
In Spensa’s world pilots are the last line of defence against a mysterious alien race known as the Krell that are waging a continuous war against the last of humanity. Since childhood Spensa has dreamed of becoming a pilot like her father before but because of his cowardly actions in a massive air battle his legacy has been tainted and it is feared by the powers that be that Spensa will ultimately follow her father’s footsteps and be the cause of mass casualties.
So the whole book follows Spensa’s efforts to prove herself as a cadet despite the obstacles forced in her way by the DDF (Defiant Defence Force).
And it’s a fabulously paced piece of adventure sci fi!
From page one I was immediately hooked and 100% invested in this storyline. For a 500+ page book it really didn’t feel like it was that long. There were no parts of the story that felt lagging; I know other reviews have said it’s slow to start but I really disagree. I thought it was spot on.
And what’s even better is there was no dull info dumping. Details about this world and its tech etc were revealed at a nice steady stream. And to me it was just a really well crafted plot line that had enough nuance so it wasn’t all breakneck adventure because it had some lovely moments of light and shade.
I guess if I’m to think of any negative aspects it’s that I’m struggling to remember the supporting characters’ names…
But that could be on me as I am useless at remembering real people’s names at the best of times.
Case in point, there’s this lovely lady who lives in a house on my traditional walking route and my dog always wags her tail at her etc, this lady and I have exchanged pleasantries, heck I’ve been been in her house for a cuppa (it’s Ireland. We’re a sociable people) BUT I CANNOT REMEMBER HER NAME FOR THE LIFE OF ME and now it’s waaaaay too embarrassing to ask her again…
So I think the name thing is most likely the fault of my spoonie brain fog…
BUT WHAT I DID LOVE WERE THE CALLSIGNS!!!!! (Like nicknames that the pilots all go by in the air) AND I WANT ONE SO BADLY!!! I swear I spent far more hours this past week than I should probably admit to thinking about what my callsign should be… So far I’ve come up with Haze because well hello name I use with all my bookish social media bits’n’bobs but I’m not convinced…
This really is a useless review isn’t it. I’m so distracted…
Characters anyway….(I’ve had to check the book to remember their names lol!)
- Cobb aka Mongrel: The teacher/trainer who battled hard to get Spensa into the cadet training academy as he believed in her potential to be great… I liked him. A stereotype yes. But damn who doesn’t love a stereotype that’s well written and follows one of my fav established tropes that of old and grumpy but loyal best friend to (in this case) Spensa’s father who tries to somewhat subvert the establishment while still being respected by that same establishment.
- Ironsides: Cobb was perfectly contrasted by Ironsides (the admiral character) who was written with an almost vendetta against Spensa and she provided a wonderful antagonist type role to both Cobb and Spensa.
- Jorgen aka Jerkface: Ah I do love an entitled tosser who reveals their hidden depths as the story goes on. I really like the friendship that’s developing between Spensa and Jerkface.
- Rodge aka RIG aka Rigmarole: I feel Rig was quite a bland sort of character vis-à-vis his own storyline. But he was used to a nice effect to show Spensa’s growing maturity and understanding of what true value means as a person.
- Kimmalyn aka Quirk: I liked her and her storyline but again her plot was almost entirely used to illustrate Spensa’s journey as a pilot.
- And then there was Hurl, Arturo, Morningside(??? Swear I feel I made this name up) and a bunch of other pilot cadets that just all blurred into one for me. But I liked them all and the sense of camaraderie that was developed in the flight school despite everyone’s differing backgrounds and privilege status.
So I guess the man thing to take from this is that Spensa (aka Spin) is very much the focus of this novel. It’s from her perspective and therefore every character is used to tell her story and not their own individual storylines so if you’re looking for a deep and meaningful character study this ain’t it. Check out Becky Chambers for that.
But actually the lack of character detailing worked really well here in my opinion because Spensa is a great MC. Honestly she didn’t irk me at all which really has me shook! Because typically these female YA MCs in fantasy or SciFi can be super annoying and end up mired in chosen one / not like other girls tropes and to me Sanderson just found the perfect balance between making Spensa feel unique as a pilot and also making her quite the everywoman character.
Yes she’s got an enormous chip on her shoulder from being viewed so harshly for being her father’s daughter, a man people saw as a coward, and she’s got a bit of a trigger happy temper… But she has this immense passion, great drive and a fearsome independent spirit which makes her a rather compelling character to read about. She goes on a journey of self discovery and growth and I’m on board with that so a big thumbs up for Spensa.
But my fav character in the whole book was 100% M Bot.
M Bot is an ancient star-fighter ship that Spensa finds and repairs with the help of Rig. But M Bot isn’t just an ordinary ship, it’s got some sort of AI tech that makes it feel like it’s a ship with a soul and it verbally communicates with Spensa using comms throughout the book and I was completely here for it.
Forget Illuminae‘s Aidan.
Forget Space Odyssey‘s Hal…
M Bot is fabulous and rivals Marvin from Hitchhiker’s for my AI love! When it programmes insults to use later in the book…. Omg I was creasing with laughter!!!
But really it’s the interaction between Spensa and M Bot that truly drives this story and gives the book its great heart. Definitely a brilliantly explored interaction between person and tech.
All in all this review sucks because I just don’t know how exactly to express how much of a good time with this book. I’d highly recommend it to anyone looking for a traditional SciFi romp that’s light on character but heavy on adventure and fun.
So for me the only drawback really is that this series has not yet been completed and therefore I’m gonna be on tenterhooks waiting for each subsequent book to be published. *sigh*