The first book of a planned trilogy, it is based on a ship, headed off from a dying Earth, to colonize life at their final destination, New Earth. Things seem to be going along all right. Everything still works, and the first generation is still alive, with memories of earth. The first kids born on the ship, ages 15 and 16 are the two main protagonists – Waverly and Kieran. Kieran is the captain’s favorite, and is the logical choice to succeed him and has been groomed, in part, to take over. But he is more of a thinker, a young man who thinks before doing anything. And he is religious. Most of the people on board the ship, the Empyrean, aren’t. It is sort of expected that he and Waverly will make a couple, and start having children, partly because they are good friends, and partly because it is expected. They need children if the mission is to succeed. There is a sister ship, the New Horizon, which is comprised of religious people, many of whom bribed their way on board, rather than being taken for their talents and abilities. The ships are vast, with living areas, orchards, farms, forests, etc. Everything is grown on the ships. One day, the New Horizon starts to come closer, having slowed down (it took off a year before the Empyrean), and then all hell breaks loose, and what happens is the bulk of the story. Can’t say much about that without major spoilers, but I can say that it is a speculation into religion, and how deep it goes, and how people view their faith differently in part.
The book is exciting, if a little problematic in areas such as kids taking out shuttles and being able to pilot them successfully with minimal work on a simulator. And the kids seem to know how to work and fix things, even though there is no mention made in the beginning of their being trained to do that. The characters, who are central to the book, are drawn in ways that make them 3-dimensional, although not as clearly as I would like, an they are not always as good as they seem. The SF part is almost missing, as there is little mention of how things work, how the ships run, how fast, have they reached FTL? And when are they supposed to dock with this suitable planet (habitable planets, at least as far as I know, as a long way off, if they exist). Hopefully the other books will carry through some of the ideas that are sort of half-baked, meaning not bad, just not “done.” Comments on it refer to the characters as often being unlikeable, which is true, except that it keeps them from being one-dimensional, and we really don’t know who’s good and who’s bad for the people and the mission. People who are desperate will do anything, and this book explores that. I just wish it had taken it a step further. It seems to pull away at the last minute from these tough areas. The characters seem willing to do horrendous things, but then all is forgiven, sometimes. And everyone keeps secrets and lies, which is half the problem right there. Flaws, but readable.