Novel: Light From Other Stars
Author: Erika Swyler
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Publishing Date: 05.07.2019
Genre: Exploration Science Fiction > Coming of Age Fiction > Family Life Fiction
Page Count: 320 Pages
My Rating: 5 Stars
Erika Swyler’s Bio (From Swyler’s Goodreads Author Page):
“Erika Swyler is the author of The Book of Speculation, a national bestseller, Indie Next pick, and a Buzzfeed Best Book of the Year. Her forthcoming novel, Light from Other Stars (Bloomsbury, 2019), is about a young girl and an invention that alters the fabric of time. Her essays and short fiction have appeared in Catapult, VIDA, The New York Times, and elsewhere.
Erika lives on Long Island, NY, with her husband and a petulant rabbit. She writes, bakes, is a casual runner, and has very strong feelings about typewriters.”
Note: To Contact Erika Swyler, Read Interviews, or check for upcoming events, visit Erika’s Website.
Book Description (From Swyler’s Goodreads Description):
“From the author of national bestseller The Book of Speculation, a poignant, fantastical novel about the electric combination of ambition & wonder that keeps us reaching toward the heavens.
Eleven-year-old Nedda Papas is obsessed with becoming an astronaut. In 1986 in Easter, a small Florida Space Coast town, her dreams seem almost within reach—if she can just grow up fast enough. Theo, the scientist father she idolizes, is consumed by his own obsessions. Laid off from his job at NASA and still reeling from the loss of Nedda’s newborn brother several years before, Theo turns to the dangerous dream of extending his living daughter’s childhood just a little longer. The result is an invention that alters the fabric of time.
Amidst the chaos that erupts, Nedda must confront her father and his secrets, the ramifications of which will irrevocably change her life, her community, and the entire world. But she finds an unexpected ally in Betheen, the mother she’s never quite understood, who surprises Nedda by seeing her more clearly than anyone else.
Decades later, Nedda has achieved her long-held dream, and as she floats in antigravity, far from earth, she and her crewmates face a serious crisis. Nedda may hold the key to the solution, if she can come to terms with her past and the future that awaits her.
Light from Other Stars is about fathers and daughters, women and the forces that hold them back, and the cost of meaningful work. It questions how our lives have changed, what progress looks like, and what it really means to sacrifice for the greater good.”
Other Books By Author Erika Swyler:
The Book of Speculation (From Swyler’s Goodreads Description):
“A sweeping and captivating debut novel about a young librarian who is sent a mysterious old book, inscribed with his grandmother’s name. What is the book’s connection to his family?
Simon Watson, a young librarian, lives alone on the Long Island Sound in his family home, a house perched on the edge of a cliff that is slowly crumbling into the sea. His parents are long dead, his mother having drowned in the water his house overlooks.
One day, Simon receives a mysterious book from an antiquarian bookseller; it has been sent to him because it is inscribed with the name Verona Bonn, Simon’s grandmother. Simon must unlock the mysteries of the book, and decode his family history, before fate deals its next deadly hand.
The Book of Speculation is Erika Swyler’s gorgeous and moving debut, a wondrous novel about the power of books, family, and magic.”
The MERMAID GIRL: A Story (From Swyler’s Goodreads Description):
“From Erika Swyler, author of The Book of Speculation—one of BuzzFeed’s Best Fiction Books of 2015– a short story of a mermaid who ran away from the circus, and what happened when she started a life on land.
Before she was a suburban wife and mother, Paulina Watson was the Mermaid Girl of Carnival Lareille. She traveled everywhere with two boxes: the first with red sequins for the dress she wore as a magician’s assistant, the second with green sequins for her mermaid tail. She’d grown up on wild stories told by wild circus people. Books, she hadn’t had books until she’d found Daniel Watson and stopped moving.
The first time Daniel saw her, Paulina was floating in a glass tank, suspended in water that sparkled like it was made from night sky. She has settled down now, living in a house on a cliff on Long Island Sound with Daniel and their young family: six-year-old Simon and his baby sister, Enola. But if you steal the magician’s assistant from a carnival, how can you know if she’ll disappear?”
Das Wassermädchen: Shortstory – Astrid Finke: Translator (From Swyler’s Goodreads Description):
“Die Vorgeschichte zu »Das Geheimnis der Schwimmerin« – eindringlich, meisterhaft erzählt und einfach magisch!
Wohin Paulina Watson auch ging, begleiteten sie zwei Kisten: eine mit roten Pailletten für das Kleid, das sie als Assistentin des Zauberers trug. Und eine mit grünen Pailletten für ihren Meerjungfrauenschwanz. Paulina wuchs als Wassermädchen im Zirkus Lareille auf, in den Schlaf getragen von den wilden Geschichten der Zirkusleute. Bis zu dem Tag, als sie Simon Watson traf. Das erste Mal, als Daniel sie sah, schwebte Paulina in einem großen Aquarium, getragen von Wasser, das glitzerte wie der Nachthimmel. Jetzt lebt mit ihm und ihren Kindern Daniel und Enola in einem Haus auf den Klippen Long Islands. Doch wer dem Zirkus die Meerjungfrau stiehlt, darf nicht glauben, dass sie nicht eines Tages verschwindet …”
Colonial Comics: New England, 1620 – 1750 (From Swyler’s Goodreads Description): by Jason Rodriguez with Contributors Matt Dembicki, Sarah Winifred Searle, Alexander Danner, Matt Rawson, Erika Swyler, Noel Tuazon, John L. Bell
“Colonial Comics is a graphic novel collection of twenty stories focusing on the colonial period from 1620 through 1750 in New England. These illustrated stories focus on tales you cannot find in history books. Includes stories about free thinkers, Pequots, Jewish settlers, female business owners and dedicated school teachers, whales and livestock, slavery and frontiers, and many other aspects of colonial life.
Jason Rodriguez is a writer and editor whose books have been nominated for an Eisner Award and eight Harvey Awards. Jason lives in Arlington, Virginia, with his wife and their two dogs, four cats, and a parrot. You can usually find him on a street corner, staring out into the future.”
Author Erika Swyler’s book description provides enough insight into Light From Other Stars that for me to speak to anything further story-wise, I would be writing spoilers or providing a synopsis of Light From Other Stars which is not a book review.
In full disclosure, this is the first science fiction book I have read, as science fiction has never been one of my preferred reading genres. However, after reading, and devouring Light From Other Stars, I thought to myself, “How silly are you? After all the science fiction movies I chose to see, even longed to see, such as Interstellar, Arrival, Inception, Gravity, The Martian, every Star Wars movie ever made and my favorite, Avatar, my chosen movie to fall asleep to for years.” Why should I have been surprised to find myself enjoying Swyler’s novel Light From Other Stars? While Swyler wrote her novel using two parallel timelines, the first beginning with Nedda as an astronaut looking out the window of her spacecraft at a universe that made her feel infinitely small, and the second as an eleven-year-old girl who idolized her ‘mad scientist’ father, and found her mother to be “fascinating, if not a little frightening.” Swyler championed moving back and forth between the two parallel storylines, and as she moved between the storylines, I never felt lost or perplexed as I traversed back and forth between the parallel timeline shifts.
“What’s my Little Twitch been up to?” “The name settled on her like a hug. She was his Little Twitch because she gnawed through pencils, bounced her feet when nervous, chewed her lip. Because it felt good. Because moving made thoughts work better.” – Light From Other Stars
Light From Other Stars is an imaginative, ingenious novel. Swyler cleverly joined space events and crises that were both real and fictitious, and relationships and human emotions of love, loss, chaos, hope, regret, fear, et cetera. As well as multiple social connections between father and daughter, mother and daughter, husband and wife, friends, neighbors, astronauts peers, et cetera. Swyler’s character development was sensational, and all should applaud the character’s emotions as artistically inerrant; emotions that as the characters had, the reader feels as well.
As we know the Kennedy Space Center is in Cape Canaveral, Florida, Swyler’s protagonist lives in Easter, Florida which does not exist, but this is a fictitious novel with non-fiction overtures. However, I believe Swyler cleverly created Easter as a town to introduce some non-fiction astronautical facts concerning calendars & timing, which were influenced by religion and the movement of the moon and space. Swyler would have to confirm this, so don’t take it to the bank. I lived in Titusville, Florida during my elementary school years, and to this day I remember the windows rattling each time there was a launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. I used to fear the windows would shatter and always made sure I was outside upon launch, but who wanted to watch a launch on TV when you could see it with your eyes by looking up at the sky. I believe some of my memories from these times left me feeling more connected to Stars From Other Stars.
“She thought she’s had fear burned out of her in 1986, that particular emotion replaced by grit. “I didn’t think I would be, but I’m scared,” she said. “So was the first person who ate a lobster. But he was also hungry,” – Light From Other Stars
There were many non-fiction events woven into Light From Other Stars, such as technology, the Challenger exploding and killing all seven astronauts onboard in 1986, climate change, et cetera. Because I have not, until now, read science fiction, I believe it was the non-fiction infused with the fiction of Swyler’s novel that kept the pages turning and me anxious about what would happen next. It was the anxiousness, and the uncertainty of what was coming that felt to me like mystery and suspense woven in with the science fiction and coming of age In Light From Other Stars.
There is nothing I could or would write to discourage readers of any genre from reading Swyler’s Light From Other Stars. In fact, I recommend this book, whether you are a science fiction fan or not. As I said in the beginning, science fiction has not been a preferred reading genre of mine, but surprise, as much as I enjoyed this novel, I will be adding science fiction to my reading genres, and I do hope that Swyler is inspired to write a sequel to Light From Other Stars. Swyler is one hell of a writer, and I would be remiss if I failed to mention the extent of research Swyler had to do to write such an irreproachable novel.
I learned a significant life lesson from reading Light From Other Stars. Sometimes, when we step outside of our comfort zones, we discover that which we thought we were not interested in or that we were convinced we disliked had no basis. For instance, someone may be confident they will not like brussel sprouts until by accident, or purposely they eat one and brussel sprouts become their preferred vegetable. So it is for me with the reading genre of science fiction. Light From Other Stars is a breathtaking beautiful novel. Do yourself a favor and pre-order the book, or add it to your must-read list and ensure you read it and allow yourself to go with the flow as I did.
Thank you to Bloomsbury Publishing, Erika Swyler and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review Light From Other Stars.