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Hilary T. Smith
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Glow (Sky Chasers)

Glow (Sky Chasers #1) - Amy Kathleen Ryan 2.5 stars I like to be unsettled by books. I mean this in the sense that I appreciate books that shock, surprise and challenge me. Books that demand my attention when I’m away from them, that creep into my thoughts after I’ve closed the covers. I like Kafka’s idea that books should be an “axe for the frozen sea inside us.” But there was something wholly unpleasant about the queasy stomach I was left with at the end of Glow, and the way I wanted to brush my arms, as if I could sweep away the feeling of something crawling on my skin. Arguably, a strong emotional reaction is a good thing. Better to have feelings that tend heavily one direction than to feel underwhelmed and decidedly “meh” about the whole thing, in my opinion. But in this case, it’s proving difficult for me to step back and simply respect the skill it took to create such feelings (which I do), because it’s hard shake my instinctive revulsion to the events of Glow. This is a dark story that deals with complex, often unpleasant subject matter. So brava, Ryan, for choosing to write a story that tackles heavy themes and does not shy away from taking unexpected turns, and doesn’t replace plot with vapid love-triangle angsting. (This is certainly not Matched : In Space].) I won’t write a synopsis, but take some general ideas from Lord of the Flies, manipulative zealots, and a pervasive atmosphere of sexual threat, put them in deep space, and you’ll be in the ballpark of the premise. Initially, I did not enjoy the writing – I found it thick and impenetrable, preventing me from connecting with the action or the characters. While this eventually changed, and it captured my full attention, I had to push myself through the first half and fight my waning interest. However, this is likely down to my personal taste rather than a criticism of the mechanics of the writing. The latter half of the book is fairly dense with a sense of claustrophobia and mounting dread. The situations the characters are in are awful and kept me in a near constant state of unease. (Also, it’s an interesting experience to read a book where I feel repulsed by almost all of the characters.) In fact, it’s probably the unrelenting gloom, the persistent “evil” (to varying degrees) of a large number of the characters that made it difficult to read. When I eventually began to connect with the writing, I then felt trapped by anxiety at the direction the plot threads were taking.To be fair though, this driving of the story and characters further and further down a frightening path sets the stage well for the sequel. Rather than dropping in a last minute cliffhanger, Ryan has crafted a finale in which the characters’ identities and motivations are so much at odds with each other, that it sparks genuine curiosity at how they will ever achieve some kind of peace amongst themselves, if at all. Essentially, the book leaves the unpleasant feeling that things are very, very wrong, and not a whisper of a clue as to how they can become “right” again. While the cover (of the UK/Aus edition) is reminiscent of Across the Universe, and there are some surface-level similarities, the tone and execution is vastly different. Glow is a disquieting book. The content is quite heavy and writing, at times, distancing. However, it does leave an impact and raise some interesting stakes for a continuation of the series.