Saturday, August 1, 2015

Review: Earth Girl by Janet Edwards

To celebrate the upcoming September 8th release of Earth Flight, the conclusion to the Earth Girl trilogy, I'm reblogging my reviews of Earth Girl (Book 1) and Earth Star (Book 2).

Review originally appeared at SFFWrtCht.

Earth Girl by Janet Edwards brings us to Jarra’s Earth, in the year 2788, when travel between the stars is as easy as stepping through a portal. Except that, for “throwbacks” like Jara, the other side of that portal means death by anaphylactic shock due to an inherited fault in their immune system. Jara knows this first hand, because as soon as she turned of legal age, she exercised her legal right to leave Earth. She only survived because a medical team was on alert, waiting to transport her back and save her life. But there can’t always be someone waiting on the other side of her mistakes. Now she decides to join an archaeological dig team of “norms” and pretend to be from off-world so that she can spit in the face of their prejudice against “apes.” When her lies put her life in danger, what she learns has more to do with herself than her foreign peers.

Janet Edwards gives us a book to lose ourselves in, from a well-crafted backstory of Earth’s depopulation to the coming-of-age romance of an off-kilter archaeology nerd. Before we even get to the first life-and-death-scene, we’re wowed by NYC in ruins and the future tech the team uses to excavate it, complete with environmental suits and specialized vehicles. The sparse future terminology and lingo, such as “tag points” and “amaz,” feel natural and are easy to understand. The archaeology, history, and tech are all welded together in a way that makes the exposition feel like action, because each piece of data is so closely tied to plot. There’s also a bit of kissing, offscreen sex, and many emotional moments driven by the camaraderie of team work and near-death experiences.

Interesting scifi setting? Check. People dying? Check. There’s also a strong underpinning of the softer sciences – psychology and sociology, to be precise. Jarra’s self-discoveries build us a multidimensional look at social prejudice in her universe, one that eventually crushes her immature us v. them paradigm. Many of the assumptions that Jarra has at the beginning of the novel, mostly regarding people that she knows nothing about, like her parents, eventually shatter under the weight of opposing fact. Through this process, we get to meet many fascinating characters and, through them, their diverse birth worlds and cultures.

Earth Girl sports a robust first-person voice that fills out Edwards’ smart female protagonist. Smart, as long as you don’t count common sense. Many of Jarra’s beliefs and life decisions are unrealistic, like her determination to check that she will die if she visits another world. Some of this determination stems from her core strength, her ability to commit fully to a decision if there is even the slightest chance that something will be gained. This is part of what makes her a good tag leader and what leads to many of her heroic actions. Yet, Edwards also shows us, before Jarra even meets her intended “norm” victims, that Jarra can at times become disconnected from reality and fall prey to magical thinking. It’s great to have a risk-taker who’s willing to save your life. It’s scary to have a risk-taker basing their risk assessments on pure fantasy.

Told through Jarra’s unreliable perspective, Earth Girl is a fascinating blend of delusion and reality. But most of all, Edwards captures the wonderful feeling of discovery, both of the physical world and of the self. Find out more about the amaz Earth Girl and upcoming sequels:

Earth Girl
Amazon ] [ Goodreads ]
Earth Star
Amazon ] [ Goodreads ]
Earth Flight
Amazon ] [ Goodreads ]

Janet Edwards
Website ] [ Interview ]

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