Light from Other Stars

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 31 Mar 2019

Member Reviews

It started a little slowly, but then all of a sudden I was cught up in the story.  The story, which is really *2* stories about the same person!  Faqntastic!  I loved it!  I want more!!
Was this review helpful?
I'm giving Light from Other Stars a solid 4.5/5 stars. This book was just something else. The premise alone was like nothing else I've ever read. The characters were incredible, the plot was incredible, and the science was downright fascinating. This book follows two main timelines. One, where Nedda Papas is 11 years old and dreaming of becoming an astronaut when her dad's experiment goes terribly wrong. The other, where she is an adult on a space exploration. I loved following Nedda throughout the years and seeing her go through hardships. I loved watching her grow closer to her mother and grow farther away from who she had been before everything happened. This book is so much more than just a book about some scientists. It's not all about the machines and the experiments. It's also about real, raw emotions and what happens to you after death. It's about moving on from other's mistakes and learning to live. There really are no words to truly describe this book, so all I can tell you is to read it. The only issue I had with this book was that all the science could get a little confusing at times, and the plot was pretty slow for the majority of the book. But this book isn't great because of its plot, but rather because of the characters that move it along. I would highly recommend this book to everyone.
Was this review helpful?
I unfortunately DNF'd this book. It sounded like everything I wanted to read, but I just didn't feel connected to the characters and I wasn't really invested in the plot. And I think that's a "me" reason, not a real criticism of the book itself. It just underwhelmed me and I chose not to continue.
Was this review helpful?
Great concept and beautifully written.  Hard not to get bored with some of the scientific detail.  Slow to get started but I'm glad I saw it through!
Was this review helpful?
*Thank you to NetGalley and Bloomsbury Publishing for this complimentary e galley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

This was such a great read! I had previously read The Book of Speculation by this author, so I was familiar with Swyler’s writing. But with that book being more magical realism, The Light from Other Stars seemed to have more sci fi elements which I enjoyed. I think I liked  this one even more though! 

Overall ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5 stars!
Was this review helpful?
I have read the author’s previous novel and liked it enough to give this one a try, though I wasn’t impressed. This offering was MUCH better and I was mesmerized by both the language and the story. I will be looking for her books again in the future.
Was this review helpful?
After The Book of Speculation, Swyler had big feet to fill to please me: and she definitely succeeded. I love how she is able to create characters that I can intrinsically relate to and automatically fall in love with. Seeing her name on a book cover almost guarantees that I will pick it up from now on.
Was this review helpful?
I received an advanced copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Although I am writing this review after the book has been published, I read the pre-release version. 

What at first sounded like a touching historical fiction story turned out to be a strange science fiction novel. 

The book confusingly switches between past and future in an attempt to tell both parts of Nedda’s (the protagonist’s) life story at the same time. Although this might be a better story telling choice than if both parts were told in series, the way it was told was definitely not the best choice. 

This book is advertised to be about “fathers and daughters, women and the forces that hold them back,” but I found it was more about the complexity of relationship in a family and that there was more growth between Nedda and her mother than Nedda and her father. 

If you are interested from the synopsis, go ahead and give it a read. However, if it sounds like a disorganized read, I would recommend against it.
Was this review helpful?
I am a big fan of The Book of Speculation and was eager to read this book. It is very different but equally unique and intriguing. Nedda’s story is filled with challenges, strong female characters and other-worldly aspirations. It also deals with loss, commitment, determination and hope. One of those books you will want to read again and again because you know you will pick up more to the story than you did initially.
Was this review helpful?
I enthusiastically recommend this in Ep 189 of What Should I Read Next, coming July 2, 2019. Find the podcast at https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/what-should-i-read-next-book-talk-reading-recommendations/id1073499086?mt=2
Was this review helpful?
I wanted to absolutely love this book and it was okay for me. The writing is terrific and some of the story line is wonderful but not all of it. To me personally, it felt as though, a bit of the story was forced for the sake of bringing in readers who wouldn't normally choose this sort of book. I'm not sure this worked well for me. I read many different genres and don't mind them crossing but this was in need of some editing for that to work well.
Evan with those issues, overall this book is a good one and worth the time.

#LightFromOtherStars #NetGalley
Was this review helpful?
I started this book 5 weeks ago. Every time I come back to it, I care a little less about it. It is not poorly written. The premise is interesting. That should be good enough. Something about it just does not land for me. Maybe the fact that it took 100 pages to actually get to the MacGuffin. I don't know. I really liked Ms. Swyler's first book. Maybe in a year I can come back to this and kick myself for constantly putting this down and forgetting about it. That is probably a good indicator that I am not interested. I keep forgetting I am reading it.  Anyway, thanks to Net Galley for the ARC. I really did want to like it.
Was this review helpful?
4 stars

I don’t normally read science fiction and I’m usually not too keen on books about space travel either, so I surprised even myself when I decided to pick up Erika Swyler’s latest work Light from Other Stars.  It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why, but when I first read the summary, I was drawn to the story and was curious how it would turn out.  While I did end up liking the story as well as the characters a lot, I have to admit that all the science and space stuff went way over my head, to the point that I considered abandoning this more than once and moving on to something requiring less struggle.  I persevered however and I’m so glad I did, as the story was definitely worth it, especially the aspects of family, relationships, love, and humanity that were so deftly explored through the events that unfold around the main character Nedda Papas in both the past timeline (which took place in 1986) and the future, inside the space shuttle Chawla.  Speaking of which, the dual timeline format utilized in this story was unique and unlike many of the other books I’ve read before — two seemingly unrelated narratives that went off on very different tangents, but then converged in a way that surprised me.  

The writing was the other aspect of this novel that stood out — it was incredibly descriptive for sure, but more significantly, there was also a gentleness to it, with the author taking a delicate approach to all the characters while not hiding the flaws that made them human.  These were characters that were realistically drawn, yet at the same time, also didn’t feel real given the things that happen in the story.  Surreal – that’s the word that kept churning about in my mind throughout the entire time I was reading this.  Despite that, as well as the difficult (for me) subject matter, I still felt captivated by the story and the lyrical nature of the prose.  

If this review sounds vague, it’s deliberate, as this is one of those stories that needs to be experienced for yourself.  To be quite honest, I actually don’t think I understood a lot of what I read, since, like I said earlier, I get lost easily when it comes to stories that are heavy on scientific stuff and space travel, but I think what helped the most in this case was focusing on the other elements of the story that were more easily accessible and not thinking too much about the parts I was not able to wrap my head around.  This is my first time reading this author’s works and even though I struggled through this one (largely due to the subject matter), I am still interested in reading more of her works in the future.  This was definitely a different experience for me and while I probably still won’t choose to read a whole lot of science fiction because it’s just not my thing, I don’t mind occasionally reading outside of my comfort zone, especially since finishing a book like this one feels so rewarding!

Received ARC from Bloomsbury Publishing via NetGalley.
Was this review helpful?
A blend of sci-fi with a dash of historical fiction and a hefty dose of family drama make up the intricate tale that is Light From Other Stars. It’s been hard to write a review because it crosses several genres and elicited so many emotions from me as I was reading it. For a book that is mostly science fiction, it is also a compelling exploration of the emotional messiness that is family.

It also quietly celebrates women in the sciences, showing them time and time again saving the day whether it was in a small town stuck in a time loop or during a life or death mission millions of miles from Earth. I found myself going from fascinated, to heartbroken, to anxious, to full of hope every few pages as I read this.

At its core, Light from Other Stars was ode to the sciences. Much like one of my favorite books, The Martian, science and ingenuity were the backbone to our characters’ survival. I can definitely see how the equations and theories throughout could be a bit much for those without scientific backgrounds, but I don’t think this will prevent any readers from being able to feel immersed in this extraordinary novel. I mean, a lot of it went way over my head but it was still fascinating to read.

One of the aspects that stood out most for me was the book’s beautiful take on loss: “If her dad were right, people who died were just thoughts traveling like light, continuing.”

It’s a wonderful thought to think that when we’re gone all of the building blocks that made us burst back out into the universe. That all the atoms we’re made of never really go anywhere, they just change shape and continue out there forever in the cosmos. It’s dazzlingly comforting.
Was this review helpful?
If father/daughter bonds don’t constitute one of the five plot paradigms of all time, they surely should. From Shakespeare to Dickens, Wagner to Verdi, those powerful stories of connection and separation, of adult judgement shifting from parent to child, reliably twang heartstrings. And Swyler’s new novel draws its power from the same energy source.

It’s a tale of science – of time and travel and matter – but it’s also a science-fiction adventure story, and a pretty gripping one, in which the heroes/scientists/survivors are principally the women. If fathers matter intensely, mothers do just as much.

Nedda Papas, eleven years old and a science nerd, has grown up in a small Florida community called Easter, the child of a not-so-happy marriage that has faltered as a result of grief and secrecy. Her father Theo is a scientist, and so is her mother Betheen, but Betheen has turned to baking (which is also, essentially, a series of chemistry experiments) in recent years. Nedda’s father has been experimenting with entropy via a machine called Crucible, and on the day of the Challenger space disaster, close to Easter, Crucible finally springs to life, exerting an influence over Easter generally, and certain individuals in particular, that will break hearts and propel some of the characters far into the future.

This 1986 timeline is spliced with another which traces adult Nedda and three other travelers aboard a spacecraft called Chula, headed on a one-way mission to colonize a distant planet. This storyline contains its own threads of drama and love, but the dominant story is the one set on earth, where Betheen and Nedda race to save Easter, a crucial act which can only come at the price of unbearable sacrifice.

Swyler connects these elements, and others too, notably the pain of losing a child, rather like Betheen and Nedda constructing their salvation machine out of many pieces of old but freshly purposed equipment – with fluid readability and a powerful emotional drive. The science is delivered plausibly and persuasively. And Nedda’s personality, fused from her parents’ love and skills, their mistakes and her own individual nature, is charming both as adult and child.

For all its modernity – the ideas, the science, the female leads – this is, at heart, an old-fashioned romance of a story, and that heart can sometimes appear a soft one. Father/daughter love binds it. As doting parents and clear-eyed but adoring children part but never wholly separate so Swyler sends out a message of loving reassurance into the universe.
Was this review helpful?
This book has been getting a lot of hype so I was really looking forward to reading it and seeing if it lived up to its promise. It’s well written in a lyrical, almost poetic way. That’s the good part. The not-so-good part for me was all the scientific details and the sci-fi aspects. Half the time I couldn’t figure out what they were talking about and after awhile I didn’t really care
Was this review helpful?
4.5 stars

Really disappointed ... that I didn't give this book my full attention until over half way through.  My fault; life was simply in the way.  And then it wasn't, and I dove into this book with both feet, and I LOVED it.  Loved.  So much to read and absorb and think and ponder and just let sit with this one.  Great characters - Nedda could be one of my all time favorites.  This book is about families and friends, and decisions made that alter lives in ways no one can predict.  And then how you deal with the aftermath.  But it's presented in such a way that you don't actually realize the lessons it's burning into your mind.  It's an intriguing storyline, and honestly not one I would typically be drawn to.  But this is a book I am glad I took a chance on, because it will stick with me for a long time, probably without me even realizing it.  Honestly, this is one of those books I will forever struggle with how to write the review - I think everyone will react in a very personal way, and that's hard to put into words.  Suffice it to say, this is one I would highly recommend, and let you form your own opinion.
Was this review helpful?
Nedda Papas lives in Florida in 1986, near Cape Canaveral. At 11, she knows everything about the space missions. She idolizes the astronauts and longs to go to space herself. Her brilliant father used to work for NASA, but after layoffs, he now works at a small college, and in his time not spent teaching he is building a machine that can keep running and powering things forever (such as an engine) —and that by its very nature could also slow down or speed up time. 

Decades later, Nedda gets to live her dream of going to space: She and three other astronauts are on a ship called the Chawla, which is taking them to a new planet. They are pioneers in leaving Earth to find other places for civilization to live, with Earth experiencing the drastic effects of climate change. 

The story goes back and forth between Nedda’s life as an adult on the Chawla and her young life in Florida. Her father succeeds in getting his machine to work —and it causes a huge disruption in time for her and the other inhabitants of the small town of Easter, Florida. The details of what happens are slowly revealed over the course of the book. The incident happens right after the tragedy of the Challenger disintegrating in the sky after launch. What Nedda goes through and learns as an 11-year-old ends up being the key to helping her work through a dangerous situation in her space travels when she’s older.

Light from Other Starsis full of science references, but while it’s “about” time and light and space, it’s more truly “about” family. About friendship and love. About how love can transcend space and time. 

Given that I grew up in the space shuttle era, when space seemed ever more accessible because of these new plane-like vehicles and the possibilities, the hope and excitement, they opened up, I was drawn to this story. I loved the space shuttles; I vividly remember sitting in a high school cafeteria and watching the launch and demise of the Challenger and its seven astronauts. I was thrilled and moved almost to tears when I was able to see in person the decommissioned Endeavour at the California Science Center in Los Angeles. I enjoy learning about science and I appreciated the possibilities explored in Light from Other Stars. But the beauty of the book is most at its heart, where Nedda considers her imperfect parents and her love for them, where she considers the sweet friendship she has with a young man named Denny, who is affected as well by the incident caused by the machine. She comes to understand her father and mother better and what drove them to act in certain ways. She has opportunities to begin to find peace even after experiences and revelations that affect her deeply.

This is a lovely book and I now want to read Erika Swyler’s previous novel.
Was this review helpful?
A beautiful, moving, literary science fiction novel. This book alternates between two time periods - 1986, when Nedda is an 11 year old dreaming of becoming an astronaut some day, and the future when she is actually an astronaut on a deep space mission. But the book is about so much more than that. The rest of the plot can't really be described both because it would spoil the book, but beyond that, because the book is also about so much more than the science fiction aspects - a real character book, about families and relationships and love. Intellectual and emotional and just lovely to read. For the feel of the book, think "The Age of Miracles" by Karen Thompson Walker, "The Wanderers" by Meg Howrey, and/or the movie "Interstellar." 4.5 stars.
Was this review helpful?
A big thanks to Netgalley for giving me the opportunity to read and review this beautiful book. It resonated with me on many levels and will stay in my memory  a very long time.
Nedda Papas is a young girl who lives in a small town on the Space Coast of Florida. She has always been fascinated with space travel. When she watches the Challenger explode on TV with her classmates , her life is forever changed.
Her father Theo has been laid off from NASA, but has been working on his own project at a college lab. His machine set off events that affect not only him and Nedda's best friend, Denny, but their whole small town. 
Nedda does achieve her dreams of space travel, but there are many sacrifices to be made and repairs that may or may not work to get her and her crew mates to a new colony they hope to build.
Although readers may tag LIGHT FROM OTHER STARS as speculative or science fiction, the story is so much more. Yes, there are a good many technical details, but through it all runs a tale of love, loss, grief and family. Time is a theme that moves throughout the story as the author takes us from 1986 to the future. There is a beautiful, lyrical quality to this novel that is missing from so many modern stories.
I have not read Erika Swyler's first novel yet, but will add it to my TBR pile and look for future works by this talented writer.
Was this review helpful?