Lost In Translation

Tin Star  - Cecil Castellucci

"Everywhere has something that'll disappoint you. It's just (about) choosing a disappointment and having it be the most tolerable."


That sounds phonetically like nails on a blackboard but I find it quite apt for a book as… unique as Tin Star.



This review is brought to you by the word: BORED.


In an unspecified time in the future when intergalactic travel is possible, the Earth chooses to maintain an Isolationist ideal as, relative to the universe, humans are considered Minor Species. Fifteen-year old Tula Bane and her family are members of the Children of the Earth, a cult-like movement that counters this perspective by voyaging into the galaxy, seeking for new stars to colonize led by its charismatic leader Brother Blue.


On a stopover in their journey to colonize Beta Granade, Tula was beaten up and abandoned by Brother Blue in the Yertina Feray Space Station where she is the only human present. A home for the banished and shamed, here she meets and befriends an oddball mix of antennaed, alien characters including Tournour the station's constable, Thado the caretaker of the arboretum and  Heckleck, a black market dealer who takes her under his wing (literally) as his errand girl. Gradually Tula settles in the life of a dealer in the seedy underbelly of the Space Station. Until a few years after, propelled by the changing universal political climate, three young humans crashed in the Yertina Feray. Giving Tula Bane the perfect means to exact her vengeance.


Revenge is a dish best served cold. 


And bland.


And confusing.


Something about the writing makes me think either this was translated poorly from a different language or, more probably, the creativity was so focused on the world building that none was left to spare for the characters and the delivery of the story. I was quite impressed with the depth of imagination dedicated to constructing the socio-political atmosphere that served as the backdrop for Tula's story. Humans as the intergalactic marginalized minority is hardly original but how this fits into the universe of the distant future was quite interesting. Nanotechnology in your bloodstream, a cult that does good on the promise of being one with the stars, different alien races with distinct quirks and features… there are so many reasons why this should've worked.


But so much more why it didn't.


Starting with the absolute lack of emotion in this story. I suppose it's about finding home in the midst of desolation and friendship outside of… interspecies differences but it was delivered in such an automated manner that I'm wondering if there's a message this was trying to deliver at all. 


The bell rang. The hocht began. We moved toward each other and began to circle. I kept up my stare. He swung. I dodged. He swung again. I dodged. I saw an open spot on his face, and I punched. My knuckles connected with his chin. It was a soft punch. It did no harm. He sprung back, more surprised than hurt. I crouched again, and he swung over my head. I hissed at him.


He pushed me.


Whose grocery list is this?!


I mean, I hate excessive drama as the next sci-fi reader but I do expect to take away or feel something, be it good or bad, from every book that I read. There were a lot of hollow points, the development of the story was jumpy and this book just ended up  feeling… empty. And I know it is supposed to be empty because duh, this is set in space, but I found myself longing for a few adjectives here and there, some emotional connection with Tula who, even by telling this entirely through her perspective, still feels like a stranger to me by the end. And maybe that's because she's lived in an alien environment for so long and the humanity has been drained out of her but even in that rationale her character is stuck in that stasis throughout the story. So she's a human with alien emotions now… what then? Why should I care what becomes of her? Why should I even bother with this book?


The introduction of the 3 humans Els, Caleb and Reza just piled in on the confusion and added some eye-roll worthy attempts at injecting romance in this story. Which was a surprise because with the droll delivery of the story thus far, I was willing to accede even to a love triangle to liven things up. Well it didn't go there… wait, I THINK it didn't go there… 


Or maybe it did… 


Yup, even after finishing this I'm not sure. I'm pretty sure some insta-love was at play and definitely some insta-weird happened in the end. I may have forgotten or my brain may have experienced short-term death by boredom. Or maybe I was just too busy doing something else while all these were going on.




Certainly (and I'm being VERY generous here) the story did choose some interesting turns which with proper character depth and crunchier dialogue which should be labelled as bold and creative… but since it has neither it just went the path of bizarre and strange. The kind that makes you go "Oh. Hmm. Yeah."


So this had an interesting premise going for it and the story wasn't half-bad. It's just the delivery magnified all its faults, a bland heroine, in a bland setting with bland problems. 


ARC provided by Roaring Brook Press thru NetGalley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review. Quotes may not appear in the published edition.