Terra has never known anything but life aboard the Asherah, a city-within-a-spaceship that left Earth five hundred years ago in search of refuge. At sixteen, working a job that doesn’t interest her, and living with a grieving father who only notices her when he’s yelling, Terra is sure that there has to be more to life than what she’s got.
But when she inadvertently witnesses the captain’s guard murdering an innocent man, Terra is suddenly thrust into the dark world beneath her ship’s idyllic surface. As she’s drawn into a secret rebellion determined to restore power to the people, Terra discovers that her choices may determine life or death for the people she cares most about. With mere months to go before landing on the long-promised planet, Terra has to make the decision of a lifetime–one that will determine the fate of her people.
Um, wow! When I started it, I thought it will be like Across the Universe – in fact, while reading it too, you feel the ghost of AtU – it has most of the tropes, like big spaceship floating to colonize a planet, closed community, strict laws, dissent among people, and all that conspiracy vibe. Thing is, since it follows Terra’s journey during the six months prior to landing, it has a lot of shift in plot. First, she is having a bad life at her house – her alcoholic widowed father expects her to meet his expectations of the perfect daughter, then when she does and gets a vocation she doesn’t really care about, she is being pushed to marry. When she witnesses a murder and comes in the sphere of the rebelllion’s plans, she joins them in the hope of finding a place to belong. But even there, she doesn’t get the freedom she craves. Entrapment is a big plot device in the story – with each character feeling bound by the rigid laws of the ship.
The political and cultural structure of the ship is largely secular but their customs are kind of religious. Even though it is sci-fi, the focus is more on survival and sustainability, which means the scientific progress is more biological than technology based. Religious guidelines define the rules, but the system is more of a military rule. The underlying plot of the rebellion is juxtaposed against by Terra being mostly a reluctant pawn in their plans. She thinks picking sides would help her find acceptance, but in the end you know that not everyone is full of good intentions or bad. It is a slow build-up of the lies and the plotting that leads to a final power grab, something that wasn’t for the best interest of the ship, especially when they have bigger problems at their door. Overall, the atmosphere of the book was grim, and a bit sad when it came to how Terra tries to find a solution for her loneliness. What seems to be a love triangle isn’t, since both the guys were unsuitable for her. And with that ending, I would love to see what happens in the next book, with her as well as with the ship. Plus, aliens!! Woo! (Avatar feels at that one)