Book Review: Tin Star -

Book Review

Mania Grade: B

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  • Author: Cecil Castellucci
  • Publisher: First Second Books
  • Book Genre: Science Fiction
  • Format: Hardback, 240 pages
  • Series:

Book Review: Tin Star

A throwback science fiction tale with colorful prose

By Chuck Francisco     March 07, 2014

A throwback science fiction tale with colorful prose
© First Second Books
The most enduring works of science fiction are those which use the medium as a canvas from which the ethical dilemmas of today can be studied with the separate indifference of a hypothetical situation. The original Star Trek series is most famous for pushing the boundaries of racial and national acceptance, the reimagined Battlestar Galactica precariously placed the topic of suicide bombing right in our face, Asimov used the robots to allegorically examine the nature of slavery and free will, and Bradbury lit censorship ablaze in Fahrenheit 451. It's undeniable that science fiction occupies an important role in pushing our own perceived boundaries, testing them for sore spots in our society which require attention. This is why I find it particularly amusing that the genre was once considered only the domain of youth; too silly for adults to pay attention to. As if the imagination is some symbiotic creature within a person, which dies upon the engagement of their professional career (some sort of perverse Tingler). 

As I dive into Tin Star, the new science fiction space station adventure from Cecil Castellucci (The Year of the Beasts, Odd Duck), I'm reminded of that odd derision fellow adult nerds harbor toward genre fare cross labeled as "young adult". I briefly reflect upon just how silly this is (given what was just tackled above), before all miscellaneous thoughts scatter like birds from a beach in the wake of Tin Star's vivid prose. The scene, a far flung and backwater space station, comes to life with dense and imaginative precision. The stakes are established in dramatically rapid order (think: the opening of 2004's Dawn of the Dead remake, just sans zombies). This was an important pacing choice, as opening on an upset teenage protagonist could potentially alienate older readers. Quite frankly, the opening is the roughest portion of the narrative, but this is often the case for most stories.

Castellucci quickly establishes the Yertina Feray, a nearly derelict space station, which is home to a great hodgepodge of cast-off societal fringers from many different alien species. Our protagonist is Tula Bane (+1 cool name), a teenage colonist traveling with her family aboard the Prairie Rose, on its way toward their new home on an outer edge world. While docked for a supply stop at the Yertina Feray, Tula is beaten to within an inch of her life, and left for dead, as her family and ship depart for the edge of the galaxy. She's challenged with the nearly impossible odds of scraping together a living amongst the station's lower levels, compounded by yet further difficulty in that the other alien species actively dislike humans (and Tula is the only one aboard). What follows is an intriguing adventure predicated around what it means to be human versus adapting to survive. 

Here is where Tin Star truly shines: it is an effective coming of age tale, told in such a thrilling, no nonsense way as to not feel like one. I can not underscore how epic a victory this is, because it allows young readers to grow, exposing them to important ideas, while seeding their imaginations. Simultaneously it allows curmudgeonly adults to dust off the box in which they've been secreting away their imagination, and take the old gal out for a spin. Perhaps because of this universal appeal, Tin Star is a book which should be on school reading lists AND geek-worthy reading lists. A throwback science fiction tale with colorful prose, I'm recommending Tin Star for genre fans of all ages.

Tin Star by Cecil Castellucci is available this now from First Second Books as a Hardback for $16.99.

Chuck Francisco is a columnist and critic for Mania, writing Shock-O-Rama, the weekly look into classic cult, horror and sci-fi. He is a co-curator of several repertoire film series at the world famous  Colonial Theatre  in Phoenixville, PA. You can hear him drop nerd knowledge on weekly podcast You've Got Geek or think him a fool of a Took on Twitter.


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