Carys and Max only have 90 minutes of air left. Left floating in space after an accident, the couple only have each other to hold onto. The world below them rejected their love for each other and now they are alone in space, with their regrets and their very real fears.

Max and Carys really are star-crossed lovers. With everything on earth conspiring against them, they finally get to be together in space, and then disaster strikes. I did like that it wasn’t a perfect relationship, they get irritated with each other, they have doubts. But ultimately, they love each other.

Hold Back the Stars starts with “This is the end”, the couple adrift in space. The chapters then alternate between their futile efforts to get them back to the damaged ship and back to their time on Earth, how they met and how they got to be where there are. Nearer the end there is some replaying of scenarios and I’m not sure if I liked that bit or not. Overall I’m a bit ambivalent about this book.

There’s no better way to spend the last minutes of your life than talking to the best person you’ve ever met.

I wanted to love it, there’s a fantastic concept against a background of utopian society, but much of it felt a little unfinished. It’s quite a short book, so establishing the world-building is sandwiched into conversations. There is a wisp of an idea that without national ties and familial bonds, we wouldn’t start wars or generally cause trouble. Everyone is on rotation, never staying in one place too long.

Europia has decided young people can’t be in relationships. And then when you do reach 35, you can only settle down if you’re going to have children. Then you’re meant to kick your children out pretty young so they can go on rotation too. Otherwise you are committed to a lonely life, with no ties and fleeting friendships. Why would any government decide this was the way to fix things? Also, it makes no sense that Max would have so much loyalty to his family if he was truly a believer in the ideal.

People who can’t live by the rules of a utopia tend to find it’s not really a utopia.

I’m pretty sure regular science fiction readers aren’t the intended audience. I found some of the attempts to make things seem like they were futuristic a little stilted and I am irritated by bad science. If America was destroyed by nuclear war, the rest of the world would be suffering from the fallout for sure, not enjoying Olympic style games and goose fat roast potatoes. Another point was when they are in space and they take their gloves off, but it’s OK because their suits reseal around their wrists. I am 99.9% sure that body parts exposed to space would cause you to suffer the effects of the vacuum.

Katie Khan has a background in film and this might have a lot to do with the lack of substance but also, it’s a very dialogue dependent story. I can imagine it a lot clearer as a film script, where people aren’t usually that bothered by in-depth world-building. There’s plenty of interesting points to ponder, but I just wanted them woven together more. I just think it tried to do too much.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive | Wordery

Book Source: Purchased