Glow (Sky Chasers #1) by Amy Kathleen Ryan

Glow (Sky Chasers #1) - Amy Kathleen Ryan

Glow should go on a top list of books with misleading cover/title. Right up there with The Right To Arm Bears.

 

This is not a pleasant read.

 

It's not that the writing is bad - quite the contrary, while not stellar, it's a smooth-sailing page-turner. But the subject matter is heavy.

 

This is the book that should have been touted as ultimate Crapsack Setting YA with anti-Bella heroine instead of The Hunger Games.

 

Why?

 

 

Because this book goes where Collins didn't dare to go; she tried to create moral dilemmas, but chickened out. She took the idea of arena games which existed not for the entertainment of the nobles but to make the lowest common denominator entertained so it wouldn't think of rebelling, and then decided to blame it all on the government and make the rest of the population victims who hate it but are unable to prevent it.

 

 

Here, things are not so clean-cut. The way things are portrayed will depend on the point of view the book is focused on, but I think the ultimate presentation is still neutral and it's up to the reader to pick whom they will side with. It even manages to handle the problem of religion mostly well - if nothing, why it might be necessary, and then there are certain revelations at the end. Another problematic subject it touches upon is the birth control. There is no great breakthrough - but the author tried, at least, which is more than can be said for a lot of dystopian/post-apocalyptic YA.

 

People suck. Love interests suck - but the female protagonist knows this at least well enough to think before acting on her feelings only or making excuses. They must grow more before settling down. If they even do that. Or maybe have the boys settle down with one another. Sadly, the most awesome conclusion seems to be the least likely - not just metaphysically, but in-universe too. (They are supposed to settle on a new planet and breed. I guess they could settle some surrogate arrangement with Waverly.)

 

There is a great conflict of interests. You cannot deny that even the side you're not rooting for doesn't have some valid points. Likewise, there are not many completely unsympathetic characters.

 

As far as level of "science" goes, think your average cheesy Space Opera. Don't worry about being swamped by piles of technical terms.

 

Our POV characters are Kieran and Waverly, the token couple in everyone's eyes. Needless to say, it's not as pretty as it sounds.

 

Is Waverly an action girl? Depends on your definition thereof. She didn't take a level in kung-fu and uses weapons only in one scene. But she gets things done. She might not have levels in ass-kicking, but she has agency. She is probably a better leader in crisis than Kieran.

 

Kieran is unlikable. But the book doesn't try to portray it as appealing. He makes some bad choices, but he is learning slowly. And when he does screw up, there is a good excuse. I still don't think he and Waverly should end up together, but we'll see.

 

The third wheel, Seth, is a sort of Heathcliffian figure. He doesn't have a POV in this book; Waverly pushes him into the back of her mind because she practially grew up being constantly told she is meant for Kieran; Kieran, however, sees him as a rival. He has a violent streak - once again, not really excused, though explained.

 

(Oh, and don't expect a lot of romance.)

 

It's in the third person POV. I saw many complaints about this POV being "too distant", which leave me baffled. I got quite enough insight into the minds of the characters without the first person. And I daresay said distance was necessary because their point of view was skewed - we need to take their beliefs with a grain of salt. Besides, I'm not sure that switching first person would have been a good idea.

 

It does fall into a few minor cliches such as the initial infodump and physical descriptions. However, the infodump is minor and descriptions are enjoyable and mostly without "creative" similes. We see the most notable of them, those of members of our triangle, through Kieran's eyes. His description of self is, predictably, cliched mirror scene, in which he sounds oddly vain (somewhat excused through existence of competition). Then there are his multiple descriptions of Seth...which produce unintentional Ho Yay. I don't usually wear slash googles, but when a guy spends more time brooding about Seth's handsome face than about Waverly, one can't help but draw certain conclusions. (Seriously. Seth, not Waverly, is the one on whom he bestowed his sole purple simile: "laser-blue eyes".) Now, as for Waverly..."He loved her long arms, her strong bones beneath the olive skin, and the silken hairs that wandered up her forearms". And I love this book for it. I don't care how unrealistic and pandering it is. I deserve to be pandered to now and then too, dammit.

 

You will notice the lack of plot points here, and that's because the action is near-constant and I really don't want to spoil anything.

 

It's a quick and easy read (I read it whole while on commute today, under three hours total), but the setting is really not for the sensitive souls. I'm currently rewatching this really old cheesy SF (I saw it when I was in early teens, but completely forgot the title until Internet reminded me recently.) which is set in a world with even more Crapsack and moral ambiguity, so I adapted fast. No idea how unprepared minds would handle it.