Under the Shadow Review

UTS_Cover_Final-1Under the Shadow (Children of the First Star, Volume 1) by J.M. Kay

BooksEndependent, LLC, 2014. 978-0988768765

Synopsis: When Jason and his classmate Daniel are kidnapped by a strange alien robot called the Archivist, both boys find themselves at the mercy of the mysterious Shantar Anar. Back in the small town of Ashton, the boys disappearance sparks a search that will uncover old feuds and reopen old wounds from a similar case years before. Will Jason and Daniel be able to convince the Shantar Anar to bring them back to Earth or will they be stuck traveling across the galaxy?

Why I picked it up: DeeAnn Veeder of BooksEndependent emailed me to tell me about a new science fiction release and I told her I would be happy to review the book. Plus, I love a good sci-fi thriller.

Why I finished it: This book reminded me so much of the science fiction classics – Fahrenheit 451, Ender’s Game, Star Trek, and basically anything written by Isaac Asimov. It’s a story that explores the gray area of the world, the notion that there is no clearly defined good and evil in the universe against the backdrop of overcoming personal tragedies. Jason is convinced that his life has gone downhill ever since his father died. Daniel is convinced that Jason could be the new friend he desires since most of his other classmates basically ignore him. Both boys aren’t exactly thrilled to be stuck on a spaceship, light years from home, with their lives at the mercy of a mysterious being named Esan, but while they wait for their fate to be determined, Jason and Daniel are finding that they are learning something about themselves as well as about each other. Meanwhile, the families and the classmates they have left behind struggle to make sense of the disappearance of Jason and Daniel, but the loss of the boys is doing more to tear the community apart rather than bring it together. Kay draws on the works of science fiction godfathers, bringing the reader from middle America to the far reaches of space, and makes the unfamiliar seem, well, just as unfamiliar as it has always been. I appreciated that he took what the reader already knows about the genre and sort of makes fun of these notions and ideas, noting that things are not always what they appear to be, that we should never assume we know what is truly right. The narrative bounces between Jason, Daniel, and the Archivist, and Jason’s mother Anne, Police Detective Coregon, and classmate Ashlyn. It gives the reader a 360˚ view of a complex plot that takes us on an unexpected adventure out of our comfort zone and further into ourselves, asking us to test our notions of what we think life should be and what value we place on lives other than our own.

Be sure to check out the link for a chance to win a signed book or a $15 Amazon Gift Card!

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Other related materials: The Monolith: Science Fiction Short Stories, Volume 1: Where the Circle Ends edited by Kristy Leissle and David Nixon; The Monolith, Volume II: Everybody Dies edited by David Nixon and Kristy Leissle; Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card; Ender’s Shadow by Orson Scott Card; The Giver by Lois Lowry; A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle; The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy books by Douglas Adams; Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson; The Maze Runner books by James Dashner; Foundation novels by Isaac Asimov; I, Robot by Isaac Asimov; Dune by Frank Herbert; Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

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