In a far future in which humans have settled on the moon to escape wars and climate change on Earth, a teenage girl trains to become a soldier in order to support her family.
Born and raised in the Lunar Bases, 15-year-old Phaet (whose name means “Dove”) works part-time in the greenhouses with her best friend and hopes to become a Bioengineer. Her plans change, however, when her mother’s illness and quarantine leave Phaet and her younger siblings destitute. To provide for her family, Phaet decides to begin her mandatory military training three years early. Her age and her silence (she rarely speaks) put her at a disadvantage; only her tentative friendship with Wes, a gifted trainee, gives her a fighting chance at survival, let alone at the high ranking she needs to earn prize money. Many of the elements of this debut—the totalitarian regime, amoral soldiers, class struggles, family secrets and love triangle—are familiar from other post-apocalyptic novels. Unfortunately, neither the characterization nor the prose helps Bao’s riff stand out from the crowd. Phaet’s journey from elective near-mute to military whiz is barely credible, and Bao’s awkward attempts at lyricism detract from the narrative action. A cliffhanger ending sets up the obligatory sequel.
This derivative debut never finds its wings. (Science fiction. 13-18)