So, here we are. My first Malorie Blackman novel - well, audiobook. But you, dear readers, know what I mean. This is my first novel - not short story - and this was given to me by Leanne at Midas PR (on behalf of Audible.co.uk). This came from an email chat where I asked for a few audiobooks as part of last month's Murder Month and I said I would need something when the murders get too much. Leanne mentioned a few upcoming titles and I instantly locked on Chasing The Stars and got quite excited when Leanne went "Ok, let me grab you a credit so you can preorder this".
Inspired by the Shakespeare play, Othello, Chasing the Stars follows Olivia and her twin brother, Aidan, alone on a spaceship after a virus wiped out the whole crew - including their parents - and are trying desperately to return to Earth. On the way, they see something. A human settlement on a hostile planet under fire. Vee tries her best to save the humans, but only saved 22.
One of the 22 is Nathan. As soon as they see each other, both Nathan and Vee begin to fall for each other hard and dangerously fast. But things take dark and murderous turn. Secrets, lies, jealousy, murder. Sometimes love won't save the day...
Before I go any further, I must stress one word in my write up. Inspired. This novel is inspired by Othello. I have to state this as I believe some of you guys who know Othello inside out will read this and will be very surprised over the differences between the book and the play.
I enjoyed myself with this audiobook. I liked it, but I know that this is one of those stories that will split you. You will like it or loathe it.
Let' start with why I liked it. I got hooked in within the first few chapters as things were thrown at you. It got my attention and once everyone met, I enjoyed seeing how they interacted, and the events that followed. The mysterious "accidents" and the claustrophobic atmosphere of being on a spaceship and someone causing these accidents... the tension was delicious for me (and I love a good mystery - hey, maybe I could have put this story as one of my Murder Month reads...!)
The characters - Vee and Nathan - were the main driving force of the story for me. Within a few chapters, I had to know what happened to them next. I believe that because this book was duel chapters (Vee would read one, Nathan would read the second and back&forth we go) and the narrators of the audiobook (Georgina Campbell and Matthew Morgan) helped me with this. Both made me warm to the leads instantly and make me both like them and, at times, want to shake them and say (as Nathan's mother said to him) "My hand is itching to give you an attitude adjustment slap". Both are flawed and damaged characters and when the plot turned dark and their relationship goes south, we saw Vee consumed with jealousy and self doubt whereas with Nathan, we saw his pride get hurt and his unwillingness to see things from Vee's point of view. And they not wanting to communicate - oh, the amount of times I would mentally shout at my iPod "Talk! Communicate! You need to talk to each other about this!"... I don't read books often that, when a relationship disintegrates, it's both people in the relationships who are at fault. It usually one person who "ruins" it and the other is the innocent party. So, reading this was oddly refreshing for me.
However (I didn't want to say but), this book isn't perfect and I know some of you guys will dislike this book for 2 or 3 reasons.
The first is side characters. Now, I love a good side character. Just given a small nugget of information and they become a person. They feel real. But, this doesn't feel like it happened. This book focuses so much of Vee and Nathan that other characters don't really get room to breath. There's only one minor character that I thought was written well and that was Nathan's friend, Anjuli, and that was because I had an instant reaction to her and I saw her very clearly in my mind. But other characters, important characters such as Aidan (Vee's twin brother) and Catherine (Nathan's mother), didn't feel fleshed out. They felt a little flat, and these characters (along with one or two others) really needed to be fleshed out more.
The second reason is the insta-love element. There is no getting away from it. Vee and Nathan's relationship is very insta-love and some of you guys are gonna hate it. I never saw it as insta-love but two very damaged souls (Vee being alone on a spaceship for 3 years after watching the whole crew dying and Nathan being a slave and suffering physical and mental abuse, and both desperate for love) meeting and falling into an intense relationship that flares into life before dying and turning into something toxic and hideous. I enjoyed this, but I know some of you won't. You will scream at their instant connect and fume over them going "This is happening too fast" thoughts...
The third thing is a mix of plot and ending. Now, I admit I don't know much about Othello, so I went into this story blind. But I found the twists in the plot a little weak and predictable. I didn't get all the plot twists, mind, - there was one I didn't see coming, but once it was revealed, I was surprised I didn't see it sooner. But there was one that I saw coming almost from the start and was surprised no one else saw it! I don't believe this is the author's fault, but I wish there was more twists and mystery to hide the truth.
The same goes with the ending. The ending isn't concrete enough for my tastes. I don't mind endings like Chasing the Stars had, but in this case, I feel like I needed something more.
I enjoyed this, but I feel that this will divide readers... But I am excited to read Noughts and Crosses, which is sitting on my Kindle as I type...