My rating: 3.75 of 5 stars
The opposite of faith isn’t doubt. The opposite of faith is certainty. — Noemi
Hurrah! I finally finished Defy the Stars! I attempted to finish it last year, but I guess I wasn’t in the mood for sci-fi. Despite my waning interest in the genre, I’m glad that I pushed through. And let me tell you, this book has 500 pages. (I took a peek at the sequel, which seems to be thicker.)
Defy the Stars is a very philosophical novel that will make you reflect on what makes you human. Sounds profound, right? Haha. In this fictional world, Earth has become a parasite, conquering and consuming the resources of other planets with the help of androids. Only one planet remains independent: Genesis. Noemi Vidal, the heroine, is on a mission to destroy the wormhole or space gate that links Earth to Genesis. However, her plans go awry when her best friend gets injured. She races to an abandoned spaceship, hoping to find medical aid. There, she meets Abel, a “very advanced” android that has been stuck on the ship for 30 years. And so begins a partnership that may or may not stop the war between their planets.
As you’ve probably gleaned from my summary, many things happen in Defy the Stars. Unfortunately, the length turned out to be my main problem. Indeed, every first book in a sci-fi series should have adequate/expansive world-building and character development. Still, I sometimes felt like I was watching The Empire Strikes Back, the only Star Wars movie that I found super boring. It would’ve been better if the book’s pacing had been faster.
Looking at the glass half-full, I enjoyed reading about Noemi’s struggle in seeing Abel as “human.” Initially, his actions were perfunctory, purely dictated by his complicated programming. Later on, he started to show signs of humanity, such as agency, empathy, and desire. The line between man and robot became blurry, making Noemi unsure about how to see and treat him. This existential discourse was entertaining because it was reminiscent of Are You Human, Too?, a Korean drama starring one of my favorite actors. In this case, my enjoyment was literally BIASED. Hahaha.
As a Christian reader, I liked the book’s take on religion. While Noemi was traveling through space, she was also on a spiritual journey. One of her early misconceptions was that God never listened to her prayers. After surviving a number of life-threatening situations, her faith was renewed to the point that it opened her eyes to many things, including Abel’s “soul.” When Noemi overcame her loneliness, I was sincerely happy for her. Since the concept of faith isn’t restricted to Christianity or Catholicism, I think that readers with different beliefs might enjoy this aspect of the book, too.
If Noemi was inspiring, Abel was entertaining. It was ironic how his robotic nature made him effortlessly funny. For example, he unabashedly offered to be Noemi’s boy toy, asserting that after all, he had been made to serve humans and equipped with the knowledge to please them. Noemi, who was quite scandalized, had to explain the prerequisites of physical intimacy. She didn’t say anything about saving herself for marriage, but it was clear to me that she was conservative. Poor Abel. He should’ve known better!
Ultimately, I liked Defy the Stars enough to give it 3.75 stars. The pacing was slow, but the content was very meaningful. Fantasy is currently my jam (like always), but I’ll read the sequel as soon as possible.