Overdone characterizations threaten to overwhelm an exciting outer-space adventure.
When the richest girl in the galaxy and a burned-out war hero from lowly beginnings are the only survivors of a spaceship crash that kills 50,000 people, they grudgingly cooperate to survive. Their escape pod lands far from the ship, so Lilac and Tarver trek through cold and rain to reach the main crash site. This unknown planet has been terraformed, but frighteningly, there are no colonists—or anyone else. When they reach it, the ship’s a hazardous tomb of rotting bodies. The jam-packed plot incorporates telepathy, energy-matter conversion, an unknown life form, an explosion, two cave-ins and a temporary death. Lilac and Tarver alternate first-person narration; ratcheting up the suspense are single-page chapters in which an unknown authority interrogates Tarver. Less successful is the seemingly endless (and textually forced) clashing between the protagonists. He’s bitter and occasionally rough (in the throes of a fever, he hits her); she’s an entitled heiress whose pale, white skin warrants mention no matter who’s narrating. It’s a thin, annoying line between love and hate (guess which wins) that makes the adventure elements vie for attention.
Tipping between science fiction and fantasy, this series opener will catch readers who enjoy melodramatic sparring and those who can look past it; for outer-space thrills with moral complexity, see Beth Revis’ Across the Universe series. (Science fiction. 13 & up)