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Navigating the Stars

by Maria V. Snyder

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1092201,414 (4.34)3
"Year 2471. A new discovery. Those three words thrill my parents - the galaxy's leading archaeologists - but for me, it means another time jump to a different planet. One so big, my friends will be older than my dad when we arrive. And I'll still be seventeen. Thanks, Einstein. I really can't blame Einstein, though. No one expected to find life-sized terracotta warriors buried on other planets. So off we go to investigate, traveling through space and time. With my social life in ruins, I fill my days illegally worming into the quantum net - the invention that allows us to travel in space. Of course the only person close to my age is a hot-but-pain-in-the-neck security officer who threatens to throw me into the brig. But when one of the warrior planets goes silent, we have bigger problems on our hands. The planet's entire population might be dead. And now my worming skills, along with a translation of an ancient alien artefact, might be the key to finding out why. But my attempts to uncover the truth lead to the discovery of a deadly new alien phenomenon, and also alert those who wish to keep it quiet. The galaxy is in real danger and time is not on our sidé"--Provided by publisher… (more)
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This is a great science fiction/adventure story. Lyra Daniels doesn't want to go along when her parents go to a new planet. They are excited to find another planet with pits of the terracotta warriors that are like those on Earth. She knows it means leaving her friends behind on Xinji and never seeing them again. Space travel also means time travel. While days pass for those on the ship, years pass for those who are left behind.

One of the first people she meets on the ship is Niall Radcliff. He is ship-born and ship-raised and the last thing he wants to do is make friends with a passenger. It's the same time dilation thing. Once passengers leave the ship they are never again part of the crew's life. He is grumpy but attractive and a little bit too law-and-order for her. Lyra has decided to do some exploring in the Q-net which is a vast computer network that does everything from storing all data to managing space flight. She is her century's version of a hacker and a really good one.

Her worming brings her to the attention of ship's security in the person of Niall's father and also to the ship captain's attention. They decide to make her an intern for those who navigate the ship rather than place her in detention for her worming. There she learns much more about the Q-net and about navigating through space.

When they arrive at Yulin, their messages catch up to them. Lyra has some messages from her friend Lan who has grown up to be a cryptographer like her parents and who has devoted her life to studying an octagonal disk Lyra found that had a variety of symbols on it. The terracotta warriors on all the planets also have varieties of those symbols. Lan thinks she has made a breakthrough but, unfortunately, doesn't tell Lyra what it was. Also among the messages was the message that Xinji has dropped out of communication and that no life forms show in scans.

Lyra is determined to find out what Lan was trying to tell her. But things are not going well on their new planet. First, they discover that some of the pits have been looted which means they are all in danger from the looters. Next, Lyra discovers the way into a hitherto unknown lower level beneath the pits which contains devices, more warriors, and hearts covered with alien symbols. When she picks up a heart, it crumbles in her hand but it also lets her see shadow blobs that are also in the pits. Unfortunately, she's the only one who can see them and the rest of the scientists, including her parents, are writing her visions off as a symptom of concussion or PTSD.

When the looters come again, Lyra has to use all her talents on and off the Q-net to save the rest of the expedition and decipher what the aliens who seeded the planets with the terracotta warriors wanted.

This was exciting science fiction. It had great characters. It had a great romance too. I liked Lyra and liked her relationship with Niall. I can't wait to read Lyra's next adventure in CHASING THE SHADOWS in December. ( )
1 vote kmartin802 | Feb 13, 2019 |
Navigating the Stars by Maria V Snyder is the first book in the author’s first SF series (she has many fantasy books under her belt already). It was also my first experience of the author’s work and I’m pleased to say it was a very positive one. I was drawn to pick up this book because the blurb intrigued me and I am glad I took a chance on it.

The first thing I want to say is that Snyder clearly did her research when it came to setting up a futuristic society. Not only does she bother to include time dilation in her interstellar travel — remarkable in and of itself since so many books take a lazy magically fast travel approach — but she also thought through the social ramifications of it. The story opens with Lyra, our protagonist, sad, angry and desperate over the fact that her parents will soon be moving to another planet for work. Since she is under 18 and has to come along, that means she will never see any of her current friends again. The way the research base kids deal with that situation struck me as very believable and it was an emotional scene to read.

The way they travel through space to distant planets is still a little bit magic, time dilation or not, but it was sufficiently well thought out that I didn’t find anything to complain about. Ditto the quantum computer that controls navigation and a host of other things. There was also a bit of maths-based problem solving that I found it quite plausible that Lyra would be capable of. In summary, this book gets my “physics done right” seal of approval. Oh, and there was also some realistic treatment of head wounds, which was refreshing to see.

Not ignoring the laws of physics wasn’t the only thing done right in this book. The story was engaging and I enjoyed Lyra’s voice and being in her head. The archaeological side of things, which Lyra was frequently involved with thanks to her parents, was also interesting and not overburdened by boring details. By the time the more mysterious elements of the plot came to the forefront, I was well and truly invested and couldn’t put the book down. (And now I am sleep-deprived.) the romance was probably the least interesting element of the plot, since Lyra’s love interest is literally the only other teenager insight, but he was a sufficiently interesting character that I didn’t get annoyed at him and actually worried for his safety (I may have forgotten that I was reading a Harlequin book at that point.)

I highly recommend this book to all fans of hard science fiction and/or YA. Snyder shows that lazy shortcuts to advance the plot (magic travel, ignoring concussions) aren’t necessary to make a story interesting and engaging. I was really pleased with the realism (yes, realism, even when strange inexplicable things were also happening) and the amount of research that clearly went into this book. I was trepidatious about how the ending would go and whether I would still want to read the sequel, but I am pleased to report that I am definitely interested in finding out what happens next (and that it didn't end on a horrible cliffhanger or anything like that). Bring on the sequel!

5 / 5 stars

You can read more of my reviews on ( )
1 vote Tsana | Nov 28, 2018 |
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"Year 2471. A new discovery. Those three words thrill my parents - the galaxy's leading archaeologists - but for me, it means another time jump to a different planet. One so big, my friends will be older than my dad when we arrive. And I'll still be seventeen. Thanks, Einstein. I really can't blame Einstein, though. No one expected to find life-sized terracotta warriors buried on other planets. So off we go to investigate, traveling through space and time. With my social life in ruins, I fill my days illegally worming into the quantum net - the invention that allows us to travel in space. Of course the only person close to my age is a hot-but-pain-in-the-neck security officer who threatens to throw me into the brig. But when one of the warrior planets goes silent, we have bigger problems on our hands. The planet's entire population might be dead. And now my worming skills, along with a translation of an ancient alien artefact, might be the key to finding out why. But my attempts to uncover the truth lead to the discovery of a deadly new alien phenomenon, and also alert those who wish to keep it quiet. The galaxy is in real danger and time is not on our sidé"--Provided by publisher

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