Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement.

the stars too fondlyTwenty years ago humanity’s last great hope was the Providence mission to Proxima b. When the dark matter drive was started up for the first time, the whole crew vanished while the world was watching. Cleo grew up watching the Providence’s crew and now is her chance to find out what really happened that day. All they need to do is sneak onto the forgotten spaceship and look for clues. She never meant to steal it.

The Stars Too Fondly got off to a great start. Who doesn’t want to read a fun accidental space heist with a bunch of geeks? At times, it reminded me of the Illuminae Files, but without the creative formatting.

I liked the backstory of the original Providence crew, and the attempt at creating a dark matter drive, along with the consequences of that. We see what happened through various log entries, as well as an unidentified narrator jumping into to muse over what is happening. It does veer off into science-fantasy territory fairly quickly, with characters getting special powers.

I see we’re speaking like comic book characters instead of scientists.

I’m not usually that bothered by characters coming off as a bit young. I can be silly and immature at times, but there was just something about Cleo and her friends that kept making me think this was about a group of teenagers. Except between them they have PhDs and medical degrees, so they are obviously adults. It even goes to remind the reader that they are 27 at several points.

Maybe this fed into why I felt the romance was a bit on the weird side. Cleo idolized Captain Lucas (Billie) when she was a child. Cleo was only seven when the Providence disaster happened. And OK, Billie the AI is based on a copy that has been dormant for twenty years, so theoretically they’re a similar age, but she also comes across as more mature than Cleo in general. I guess this is being likened to Becky Chambers precisely because we all did fall for Lovelace. But AI Billie did not have that effect on me.

There’s no version of the universe where any version of me doesn’t love you.

If it had merely been left it as an unrequited crush between an immature woman and an AI, it would have been fine. Or it had explored the power dynamic involved in meeting your idol. But then some other stuff happens, which I can’t explain without spoilers, that I couldn’t buy into. I get why Cleo fancied Billie, but the chemistry in the other direction was off.

Overall, I did enjoy it, even though I didn’t buy into the romance. If you can get past the young characters, it’s a fun read.

My problem is that I’m finally, finally on a spaceship, just like I’ve always wanted to be, except I don’t understand how it works or how me and my friends are going to survive for the next seven years, and the only person who can help me is the giant shit stain of an operating system!

The Stars Too Fondly is published by Gollancz and is out now in hardback, ebook and audiobook editions. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review via NetGalley.

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