Nobody writes a sullen woman like Susan Jane Bigelow. Don’t get me wrong; they have their reasons for their moodiness. Stuck on something of a forced sabbatical with their repressive family in a repressive country, girlfriend unreachable, this corner of the galaxy about to get into an interplanetary war—there are a lot of stresses on young women like Marta Grayline. Bigelow settles us into the tension almost immediately with two quick flashes of prologue, and then we’re immersed in Marta’s world, a familiar story for some of us, even in this far-future science fiction setup: can I hide my queerness while I’m spending time with my relatives?
Marta has tried in full earnestness mode to find her place, even if her choices began with an intense need to leave her home country, Gideon, on the gravity-heavy planet Nea. It’s almost as if it took so much energy to get distance from her preacher father and smothering family that Marta doesn’t have much left for self-confidence. And yet it’s that very sense of self that Marta needs to make a difference in the war between Nea and Adastre. And maybe conversely, it’s the painfulness of coming from a closed family in a closed country on a less-than planet that fuels Marta’s drive. Bigelow does a great job of layering on the sadness and strife that come with the legacy of paternal choices made for an entire people.
Marta finds herself commanded to join her planet’s forces in the war effort, and her little sister Beth worms her way in as an enlistee. Beth is a great foil for Marta: we’re not sure of her intentions for a good long while, and although she’s certainly from the same building blocks as Marta, she seems to be making different choices than her big sister has. There are a few warning flags as they find their way out of Gideon, but Marta is so excited to be back in her element that she overlooks them. Bigelow gives us just enough in the way of tone and word choice that we should be worried for the sisters, because of course outer space during war is not the same as piloting a trade ship in peacetime. Soon enough Marta’s ship is destroyed and she finds herself a captive on a space station, a clear prisoner of the crew there. And now the alien Abrax who were responsible for the Earth’s demise and who have been unseen for hundreds of years, make their reappearance. Bigelow does a great job of touching these presumably distant points back together—what does one young woman’s legacy, one man’s decision made once upon a time, one family’s grip on a made-up tradition all have in common?
Read the book and find out. Highly recommended. The Daughter Star will stick around in my head for a long while.