Tin Star is the story of Tula Bane, a teenager who joined a space colonizing cult from Earth. She is abandoned on a way station near the edge of the known universe on the way to her new home.
How will Tula Bane survive among aliens who think human beings are the worst? Will she ever be able to go home to Earth or the colony’s planet? How will she manage to put bread on the table?
I love a good space opera and I thought that I would enjoy Tin Star more than I did.
The promise of books set in space, in my opinion, is the opportunity for unique interstellar exploration and worlds created entirely from the author’s imagination. Because of Tula’s unique plight- being stuck in what is essentially a space gas station- the author left herself very little room to write a creative story.
Mainly, Tin Star deals with character development and social struggles, not adventuring in new places.
The villain of the tale was charismatic and creepy. Take this description: “He had his hand on my shoulder in a way that he had a million times before. Only before it was comforting, encouraging, affectionate. Now it was menacing. He was looking at me and his face was smiling. To anyone looking from afar, he seemed to be pleased with me, but it was just a mask. His attitude shifted from concerned leader to unknowable monster.” pg 4
Tula manages to befriend a shady, insect-like alien named Heckleck. He’s my favorite character.
In this passage, Heckleck explains the problems Tula will face in trying to leave the station: “I know about you,” Heckleck said. “Everyone does. And you will never get off this station. You are nobody. And worse, you’re a Human. Even if you did not get on a ship that would take one of your kind, you’d have nowhere to go but to roam like the others of your kind do.” pg 35.
Keeping it real: with Heckleck.
I thought Cecil Castellucci could have done more with the cultural differences between Tula and the others on the station.
One of the most interesting exchanges in the book was between Tula and Tournour, the head of the outpost. She’s trying to figure out how old he is and, because they’re from different planets/species, it’s a surreal conversation. More of that would have been nice.
But Castellucci wrote cultural and language barriers out of the story by introducing nanites into Tula’s bloodstream to translate alien languages for her.
Something that Castellucci did well was writing profound silences between characters into her story. For much of this story, Tula finds herself standing around with Heckleck and Tournour and having nothing to say. But, somehow, it works.
I liked how Castellucci wrote the thoughts spinning through Tula’s mind at these moments. It reminded me of myself when I can’t think of anything to say: “It was a silent agreement between us that if we spoke too much then we would have to talk about the practical things. … If we ever spoke of the things that truly pressed up against us, our very real worries, our seemingly impossibly plans for escape, our divergent hopes for the future, our bubble would blow apart.” pg 184
This book in three lines: “In the end, good must win over evil. The trouble is trying to figure out which is which. Sometimes they look so much alike.” pg 204
Read this book if you enjoy light, young adult drama in space. If you’re looking for a meaty, space adventure, you’ll need to find another title.
Thank you to Roaring Brook Press for sending an advance reader copy of this book. And, thank you for reading!