Yet again I feel like I steered myself wrong on NetGalley!! The Sound of Stars, courteously provided to me by Inkyard Press, didn’t win me over. What should have been a tale of survival and starcrossed love set in the aftermath of an alien invasion of Earth proved to be a somewhat boring adventure across open country full of exposition and underwhelming action. It’s not all bad—Alechia Dow does her best to give us a dynamic, multi-dimensional protagonist in Ellie, and I’d say she succeeds at that.
The Illori invade in the book equivalent of a Star Wars prologue scrawl, with the plot taking place after the Ilori have solidified their control. M0Rr1S is a “labmade” Ilori, which makes him a second-class citizen compared to the “true” Ilori, and he’s doing more than just questioning his loyalties to the Ilori empire. He teams up with Ellie, who is running an illegal library (the Ilori are not big on preserving human culture; they see humans more as … vessels). Together, the two of them head on a road trip across America so that Morris can sabotage the Ilori’s plans.
Some good stuff: representation. Ellie is Black, fat, and possibly pan/demisexual (I say “possibly” because Ellie says her friend has suggested she’s demi, so that isn’t Ellie confirming the label). Also, in general, Dow includes multiple non-binary characters and makes it a thing that the Ilori introduce themselves with their gender. (Pronouns would be more … useful, maybe? Gender doesn’t always imply pronoun.) Dow also tries to tackle the subtlety of classist and racist discrimination when living in upscale areas of New York. So I’d say that The Sound of Stars is very self-aware and definitely tries to engage with issues of social justice, and for that alone I wish I had liked the book more.
As far as the plot goes, though … it’s just dull. I don’t care that Morris is betraying the Ilori, because I barely care about why the Ilori are here at all. The interspersed interviews, etc., with The Starry-Eyed (Ellie’s favourite band) feel so out of place, despite the revelation at the end of the book. Characters get introduced in awkward ways, with a lot of exposition afterwards. And Ellie’s demi-ness aside, just the fact that she and Morris have to fall in love to make this a romantic plot doesn’t work for me.
I found myself actively avoiding this book when I should have been finishing it. I only kept reading because I feel bad about DNFing NetGalley books. The Sound of Stars didn’t work for me. It might for you. But for me, it just left me wanting so much more.