A diverse, Own Voices Sci-Fi adventure featuring an intergalactic romance, The Sound of Stars is a fascinating look at humanity and how it’s affected by an alien invasion.
Two years ago, a misunderstanding between the leaders of Earth and the invading Ilori resulted in the deaths of one-third of the world’s population.
Seventeen-year-old Janelle “Ellie” Baker survives in an Ilori-controlled center in New York City. Deemed dangerously volatile because of their initial reaction to the invasion, humanity’s emotional transgressions are now grounds for execution. All art, books and creative expression are illegal, but Ellie breaks the rules by keeping a secret library. When a book goes missing, Ellie is terrified that the Ilori will track it back to her and kill her.
Born in a lab, M0Rr1S (Morris) was raised to be emotionless. When he finds Ellie’s illegal library, he’s duty-bound to deliver her for execution. The trouble is, he finds himself drawn to human music and in desperate need of more. They’re both breaking the rules for love of art—and Ellie inspires the same feelings in him that music does.
Ellie’s—and humanity’s—fate rests in the hands of an alien she should fear. M0Rr1S has a lot of secrets, but also a potential solution—thousands of miles away. The two embark on a wild and dangerous road trip with a bag of books and their favorite albums, all the while making a story and a song of their own that just might save them both.
Dow explores a lot about how society applies a “value” to certain people, based on arbitrary factors — and juxtaposes the human version of this with Ellie (who is biracial, and has faced prejudice her whole life, even after the alien invasion) — against Morris, who is a lab-made Ilori, and therefore viewed as inferior by the other aliens. Despite their vast differences, the two find common ground in relating these feelings — and upon discovering a mutual love of music and books, both of which have been banned by the invading Ilori aliens.
The best parts about this book are the diversity and inclusiveness within the characters; it felt very reflective of society today, as well as the fast-paced plot and the fun trope-y alien/human romance. Is the love story a little predictable, and a little insta-love? Sure, but that doesn’t detract from the enjoyment, and Dow makes it work.
There are also some snippets of “interviews” with a fictional band featured in the book that are woven between select chapters, and while I started to suspect where Dow was going with these about halfway through, it was still a really fun twist and I enjoyed seeing it play out.
I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect from this book plot-wise, and it definitely took some surprising turns and kept me engaged. That said, the ending felt almost too tidy while also leaving things very open-ended. (I’ve seen nothing that indicates this is the first in a series, but Dow has certainly left it open for a sequel.) That’s probably my biggest complaint though, is how everything wrapped up; it felt a little sudden and a little sloppy, especially if this is meant to be a standalone.
That said, my complaints didn’t really detract from my overall enjoyment of the rest of the book. I’m super picky about reading sci-fi, so it should say something that I stuck with this one and found it enjoyable. The Sound of Stars in stores now.