Title: Other Systems
Author: Elizabeth Guizzetti
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Published: 1 April 2012 by 48Fourteen
Synopsis: “Without an influx of human DNA, the utopian colony on Kipos has eleven generations before it reaches failure. With Earth over ninety light-years away. Time is short.
On the over-crowded Earth, many see opportunity in Kipos’s need. After medical, intelligence, and physiological testing, Abby and her younger siblings, Jin and Orchid, are offered transportation. Along with 750,000 other strong young immigrants, they leave the safety of their family with the expectation of good jobs and the opportunity for higher education.
While these second-generation colonists travel to the new planet in stasis, the Kiposi, terrified that Earthlings will taint their paradise, pass a series of indenture and adoption laws in order to assimilate the savages.
When Abby wakes up on Kipos, Jin cannot be found. Orchid is ripped from her arms as Abby is sold to a dull-eyed man with a sterilized wife. Indentured to breed, she is drugged and systematically coerced. To survive, Abby learns the differences in culture and language using the only thing that is truly hers on this new world: her analytical mind. To escape, she joins a planetary survey team where she will discover yet another way of life.” (Taken from Goodreads)
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The premise of this book is truly exciting, I took one look at it was immediately hooked! I haven’t read a lot of science-fiction novels before, but it’s a genre that continues to intrigue me. I was excited to dive straight into Abby’s story, which is why I was a little confused to be reading about someone named Cole, and his children. Although Cole’s story was fascinating, I did not really like the jumps between his perspective and Abby’s. I honestly found that while it was good background information, Cole’s chapters added nothing to the story once I look back at it. It could very easily have been incorporated later on.
A few chapters in, we finally get to the nut and ball of what was described in the synopsis. We are introduced to Abigail Boyd Lei, a mixed girl living on an overpopulated Earth with her family. We are shown what life is like on this futurist Earth, and it certainly doesn’t sound inviting. When Abby and her siblings are offered the chance to visit a colonised planet called Kipos, they jump straight at the opportunity. I mean, who wouldn’t when your life is so monotonous and dull on Earth? Of her three siblings, only the two youngest follow Abby and the Kiposi to a new life, leaving everyone else behind. I felt that while the farewells with her family was moving, it could have been a lot more emotional than it was. For people that Abby would never, ever see again, I had hoped that she would express a deeper understanding of loss, yet we never get to see that. All we were given were a prompt goodbye and then off the siblings go to the awaiting spaceship. I kept wondering why the rest of the family couldn’t follow them and farewell them from there.
As Abby and her siblings traverse through deep space, we are once again back with Cole and his kids. We get some more background information until we’re back again with Abby as she wakes up. It has been a hundred years since they left Earth, so everyone they have ever known is gone. I quite liked the fact that Abby was able to keep her composure in front of Orchid, in order to not scare her. I saw the inspiring older sister qualities in her character at that point. As we progress along, we learn that the Kiposi is extremely worried that the Earthlings would taint their paradise (even though they are Earthlings technically), so they introduced a set of indenture and adoption laws. Abby is ripped away from Orchid, and her younger brother is no where to be seen at all.
Abby is taken to a place where horrible things are done to her. She is alone, scared and have no idea what’s going on. As part of the indenture laws, she has to provide the Kiposi family who bought her ‘bond’ with three children or serve them for seven years. This part of the story is where things get a little confusing for me. Perhaps this was due to my erratic reading patterns for this novel, but I was continuously wondering how Cole’s story even fit in with Abby’s. We were given so much background information, but then we jump to Abby and it’s like he didn’t even exist. In fact, this part of the novel was probably the hardest to get through because I failed to see the link between the two characters and I was frustrated with Abby’s silly personality. She was continuously moaning about loving this person, or that person. I saw her as such a weak ‘Earthling’, which reflectively I now believe was the author’s intention in the first place. But honestly, I could not stand her at all during this section.
However, she does grow and becomes stronger as a person. Abby manages to escape from her bonded buyers and finds her way to a spacecraft docking area (FINALLY), where she happens upon the Alekos crew (Cole’s children). They generously take her on as an intern even with all the risks of losing their licences. I guess this is where the background information finally fits in – although I still think it was unnecessary. While I enjoyed this part of the novel a lot more – seeing Abby grow stronger, more independent and smarter – I felt it was quite lacking of a plot. I kept wondering if Abby would leave and embark on a journey to free all her indentured Earthlings but no such thing happened. We hear a little about the Earthlings back on Kipos revolting, but that’s as far as it goes. In Abby’s case however, she remains on the spaceship and explores new planets. I have to admit that that was pretty boring. I hoped she would at least lead a rebellion, fight to get her sister back, or take revenge on the people that killed her brother … but unfortunately, none of that happened. We see a lot of Abby adjusting to her new life, which is great and all, but not all that exciting.
I think I must commend Ms Guizzetti on creating some very believable and three dimensional characters. However, a novel that is 460 pages long needs to have a discernable and exciting plot. I found myself wondering more than once about where the story was heading, and kept waiting for that one scene where Abby turns into a hero and frees her fellow Earthlings.
Overall, a well written novel with some very interesting explanations of other systems in the universe.
THANKS TO: Elizabeth Guizzetti for providing an e-copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.