Cover Image: To Sleep in a Sea of Stars

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars

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Member Reviews

I made it about 20% of the way through this novel and enjoyed what I read. This review copy was downloaded to prepare for an interview with Christopher Paolini on the Fantasy Inn podcast. I have yet to hear anything back from the publicist or author about scheduling the interview and the archive date has already passed on NetGalley.

If the interview eventually happens I would be happy to update this feedback and provide a review, though for now I am leaving this to explain why I will not be reviewing the title. The star rating is apparently a requirement to submit any feedback.
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Christopher Paolini has crafted a fascinating universe that I'm eager to further explore, but elements of this first foray into the Fractalverse fell flat and kept a good book from being great. Perhaps the biggest issue here is pacing. The book is nearly 900 pages, and it feels it. While there are shimmering scenes of action and character development, they are interspersed by long slogs of not much happening. Slower parts of a tome like this might be designed to give ample time for the reader to get to know the characters and for character development to happen; however, the large cast of characters felt, on the whole, flat and indistinguishable. The notable exception is Gregorovich, the ship mind, who is delightfully bizarre. Overall, this was a solid sci-fi novel that left me intrigued to see what Paolini is planning on doing with this universe and certain larger plot elements that he seemed to be moving into place throughout the book.
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Multi-faceted Science Fiction…
After years of extensive research, well-known fantasy author of the YA Eragon series, Christopher Paolini, releases his first science fiction novel, To Sleep in a Sea of Stars.  This sweeping epic is the story of Kira Navárez, a xenobiologist stationed with her small team on a uninhabited planet in a remote galaxy.  An unexpected encounter with an unknown organism upends Kira’s whole world after she and the soft blade, as the organism identifies itself, meld together. Their symbiotic relationship opens a whole new realm of understanding for Kira as their combined life form struggles to survive against both humans and alien jellies, who come searching for the ancient and powerful soft blade.  As they grow in understanding and trust, their abilities and power become the only thing that stands in the way of the malevolent Maw, a being whose only ambition is the total annihilation of humans, jellies, and the soft-blade. 

Christopher Paolini’s research into the cutting age technologies of our day is impressive to say the least.  His world building is not only sweeping but intricately detailed.  His inclusion of thorough Appendices are extremely helpful in that they are packed with explanations and elaborations on the many scientific applications.  They are a fabulous source for inquisitive minds. This is definitely not a one time read book, unless you want to takes weeks to complete as you frequently stop and ponder all the different details.  There are so many layers of information that it would be easy to get mired down in all the details, but Paolini keeps the story moving with a totally unexpected plot and many memorable characters.

The personal story of Kira Navárez is an excellent compliment to all the hard science.  It is poignant and personal and speaks to the thoughts of many people who are thrust in something totally out of their control.  As Kira finds; life is not always easy or kind, but the motivation to keep going and do the right thing will ultimately bring a contentment in knowing that, regardless of the outcome, you tried your best.  The supporting characters are an integral part of the story and bring humor to sometimes high-tension events. Especially Gregorovich who is the half-mad, expanded human ship brain for the vessel that is helping Kira.  He is snarky and down-right hysterical at times and is actually my favorite part of the book.

There are so many “Wow” moments in To Sleep in a Sea of Stars that the ending was a little anti-climactic for me even though it has profound implications. It’s not at all what I was expecting, but then again I don’t actually know what I was hoping for.  I do believe that this book will provide the basis for many philosophical discussions concerning creation, extraterrestrial life, and the list goes on, for future generations of students and Sci Fi aficionados.

**(All images in this post are taken directly from To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini)
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The wrap up of a fairly routine planetary survey mission turns deadly fast when xenobiologist Kira Navárez encounters an alien life form in a hidden cavern.  Kira's first contact situation quickly evolves her in a larger conflict sweeping the galaxy and changes her to her very core.   This is epic science fiction at its best with intriguing world building filled with amazing technology.  The characters are filled with attitude from when they first walk onto the page and make you want to know more about them right away.  It does get a little slow in places but the action kicks back in to reward the reader.
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Yeah... this feels right. 

Absolutely stunning. I don’t think I’m capable of coming up with a cohesive and well thought out review. There is so much to love in this book. 

To start this book is an ode to sci-fi. It combines the love I have for Becky Chambers (found family on a tiny ship), Leviathan Wakes (humor, scope, heart), and the science/physics of Three Body Problem. Or to be accurate what I imagine cuz I haven’t read TBP. 

Diving into the found family I found myself incapable to putting feelings into words. I wanted nothing to happen to the crew of the Wallfish because they are all so near, dear, and precious to my heart. 

I have so many more thoughts but it’s hard to put everything into words. This book was perfect in so many ways and I will greedily snatch up multiple copies. I’m up to 5 so far...
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When I read that this book took Christopher Paolini 9 years to write, I realized he had put all of his creative effort into telling a story that really meant something to him. Nobody puts 9 years into something that is only a "story.'' I knew I had to read this book! I enjoyed his first books -- The Inheritance Cycle. And I love, love, LOVE science fiction. So I was hopeful that this book would really wow me....

And it did. 

OMG. I got pulled right into the characters, the action, the plot. I enjoyed reading my digital galley...got half way through....and started over again with the audio book version because this was a story that I wanted to HEAR told to me. Not just that....but I can listen more than I can sit down and read a physical copy due to commuting to work, household chores...you know, adulting. The audio book let me devour this story much faster than I could have reading the physical review copy....

The basics: Kira Navarez is a xenobiologist. She is assigned a routine survey mission, and dutifully goes about her job. But, then it all goes wrong....or right and then wrong from her point of view. She discovers an alien relic and is overjoyed, but that joy soon turns to horror as she has an encounter with something on the planet that will change her life forever. 

I'm not saying anything else about the plot! Read (or listen to) the book! If you enjoy sci-fi action or space operas -- you will love this book! 

The audio is 32 hours long -- but worth every minute. Jennifer Hale does a superb job of voice acting. Very enjoyable listen! The front cover art is phenomenal, too! 

This story is action packed, emotional, thought provoking and very very entertaining for this sci-fi fan! I can't wait to see what else Paolini is going to write! I hope I don't have 9 years to wait! But, even if I do, I will gladly read whatever he publishes next!

**I voluntarily read both the digital galley and the audiobook versions of this novel from Macmillan/Tor-Forge/Macmillan Audio for review purposes. All opinions expressed are entirely my  own.**
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Kira is a xenobiologist working for the Lapsang Corp. She asked to investigate a drone crash before leaving the planet for her next assignment. While doing so, she finds a strange rock formation. Trying to get a better look, she ends up finding proof of an ancient alien presence.  And that's when her life is irrevocably changed. Humankind is not alone among the stars, and Kira has proof....just not in the way she wanted.

This is a damn good science fiction novel. I expect it to end up on the Hugo ballot for 2021.
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It seems like many people love the author's Inheritance fantasy series, and while it's on my TBR pile, this is the first book I've read by him, and I will say that it's quite obvious he did a lot of longterm planning and research in writing this book, and he can write! At 880 pages, it is quite a challenge to read, but knowing it is a standalone novel makes it much less daunting. I've been reading quite a mix of fantasy, sci-fi, and historical fiction and many of them are part of a series, some of which are far longer than a trilogy. So this was kind of refreshing in that sense. Let me just say that I was blown away by this book. It feels like classic sci-fi to me, with the science of interstellar system travel is well-developed. There is even a section at the end (appendix) that explains the science of traveling slower or faster than the speed of light (but never at the speed of light) and how the Markov bubble both isolates the travelers and doesn't allow for heat release. It all makes better sense after you've read the novel, but suffice it to say that some of the science was beyond me (and I'm a huge science nerd) but it was still interesting and the stuff on the Markov bubble explained a lot about why the ship had to drop out of FTL every once in a while to shed excess heat and also why the people needed to be in cryo. I'm not sure about Paolini's fantasy series, but I really grew to love each of the main characters in this book, and I loved how he revealed a little bit about their past at a time. However, Kira is the one who really guides the story. She is a xenobiologist who has a chance encounter with an alien artifact and it causes her to travel across the stars on an epic journey to discover not just what this artifact is, but how she can save humanity from itself. At times it feels like there is disaster after disaster, and yet there is a spirit of optimism that runs throughout this book that tells me it's not all doom and gloom. I love that this story is a complete standalone, but the universe is so vast that the author can write other stories set in the same universe. When he does, I will definitely be checking them out!

Although his previous series is geared towards YA this one is definitely adult, not just because of the occasional sex (I believe there were two instances) but more because the science of both the interstellar travel and the soft blade and the various species is at a higher level than most preteens/younger teens would be interested in or understand. But if you are a fan of science fiction, this is definitely worth checking out!

FTC Disclosure: Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) provided by the Author and Publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
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I am so thrilled that I got to read this massive wonderfully epic space opera. This is not a light read,  he sheer volume of the book make sit to where only committed readers can persevere to the end. Oh but what an end it was. I found the entirety of the book to be a gripping story that never quite released you from its tether hooks. 

I liked how all the alien species were so very different from humans. Yes they were sentient beings, yes they could travel through space, but beyond that the differences were staggering. I love that the author made it a point to create species that were vastly different than our own, it made it more realistic and interesting to read.  

There was so much that happened in this book, the scale of it feels a bit unreal. All the adventures and journeys seemed to merge together by the end. However, they worked to culminate in the grand finale that can only be described as EPIC. This is the kind of book that reads like a big budget action movie. It is grandiose in its sweeping grandeur that builds until you reach the shocking, all encompassing ending. 

I found Kira's struggle with the xeno to be poignant and at times heartfelt. I liked how her relationship with it was built up slowly piece by piece until the two were almost in harmony. I also appreciated Kira's recurring comments about her studying all the alien life and culture around her, it made her character stronger as she never really forgot her job as a xenobiologist throughout the book. The crew of the Wallfish were amazing and diverse. I found myself growing closer to them just as Kira was. They added a very human element to the story that kept it grounded. Also I found the idea of a pig an cat in space to be adorable. Plus, Gregovitch. The idea of a space mind is incredible. I think he was my favorite character in the book. The concept of a mix of human intelligence with AI capabilities worked beautifully in this story, and made it stand out even more amongst sci-fi novels. 

Overall this was an amazing novel that took my breath away, made me laugh, and stirred my very human heart. Christopher Paolini has done it again and I cannot wait to see what he has in store for us next!
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Ok, I'm going to try my best to write this review without spoiling it. To be honest, the entire book is a spoiler and it starts when Kira discovers this "alien relic." From that moment on, you're following Kira through her journey looking for answers for what she's discovered. Along the way, she makes friends with a civilian vessel called the Wallfish, which really felt like a ragtag team of misfits come together to traverse the stars. It reminded me a lot of Becky Chambers's The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet even with a quirky ship's mind named Gregorovich. I did love the representation Paolini added to this book as well. However, that's where the similarities end. 

In so many ways this book was such a great space opera; tons of action, lots of world building, traveling through space. I absolutely loved the maps. The action sequences didn't keep anything back and there was so much going on. But there were things that I couldn't overlook. I think the length of the novel and Paolini's long-winded descriptions really put a damper on the book for me. But let's get into the parts that I really loved.

The world building was INTENSE. It's probably the most vivid science fiction novel I've read. It's almost like Paolini didn't want you to question any piece of the story that he's sharing. There was such incredible nuance even creating a language for the aliens to speak (it's telepathic and includes...smells). I think that the aliens themselves were also really interesting and I felt like their story was almost like a fantasy novel within itself. Space jellies! Feels better than dragons.

I also really loved Kira's character. She wasn't a bad ass that leapt head first into the fire. She was a thinker, a person who studied the alien relic. She made some pretty big mistakes with the relic as well, which made her so much more human. I really loved that she wasn't a Mary Sue and that this didn't come easy to her. I wanted there to be more conversations with her and the other crew members (outside of Falconi and Gregorovich), but I just loved that this was her story and it really humanized the entire piece.

I think the war between humans and jellies were probably the most interesting part of the story. There was that interesting dichotomy between the two species and I wondered how Paolini would approach this situation. And there were some scary sounding space creatures. First off, they're called "jellies," as in jellyfish. They had the same shape as a jellyfish or even a squid. Then there were crab monsters, but the worst were the "nightmares;" half-human, half-jelly monstrosities that were indiscriminately killing everything. I loved as you moved through the story and you learn more about the jellies, you get to relate to them a little more. And the ending felt like Kira was finally meeting the big boss in a video game. It's time to defeat the big guy!

Speaking of the end, I think the ending is where it kind of falls apart for me. Granted, it was definitely a wild show during that final battle, but it almost felt like Paolini couldn't figure out how to finish the novel. There were things being introduced right at the end and doesn't even get explored because it was over. It was beautiful and the language in this part of the book read more lyrical and metaphorical, but it felt different from the rest of the book.

Overall, I liked it but it truly was an investment in my time and energy. You'll be enamored by the world and the adventures Kira and the Wallfish take across the stars. You'll love the little lines about life and death and hearing the conversations throughout the story. You'll love their friendships and how they show up for each other. I think you'll even love the jellies! I would recommend this to folks who love a good science fiction novel. It's definitely got jargon and some things did go over my head, but you don't need  a degree in astrophysics to understand it. But you'll need to make the space in your life to read it.
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It has been a long time since we've seen anything by Paolini. However, his ability to curate new environments and cultivate fantasy worlds is evident and in full speed.. Paolini's fist venture into adult sci-fi is different enough to be disconnected from his previous works and well=written enough to truly fascinate and amaze. The book is beautiful and completely engaging.
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Christopher Paolini's SF epic, To Sleep in a Sea of Stars, is very different from his Eragon fantasy series and quite extraordinary. 

Its heroine is xenobiologist Kira Navarez, who has a much too close encounter with an alien entity. It changes her, but also significantly enhances her chances of survival - and that of her species - as humanity encounters a very hostile alien threat.

Paolini gives readers an engaging lead in an impossible situation, with constant action and suspense throughout.
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This book is a true epic adventure in Science Fiction. It's clear from the detail and research that must have gone into this book that it was incredibly well thought out and developed. I loved all the details from the science involved to all the descriptions. The main character was extremely well developed and easily relatable. If you are into science fiction, particularly alien and first contact stories then definitely give this one a try! 

If you are an audiobook listener than I highly recommend the audio version. The narrator does an amazing job bringing Kira to life and I really enjoyed listening to the story. Her voice had all the right inflections and was soothing at the same time.
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To Sleep in a Sea of Stars begins on a happy day in Kira Navárez’s life. She and her fellow pre-colonization expedition are wrapping things up after studying a planet to verify it is safe for colonization. They’re ready to leave, her lover Alan has asked her to marry him and they are even hoping to come back and help settle this planet. However, a drone saw something puzzling and she jets off to check it out. She discovers an alien artifact or, it could be said an alien artifact discovers her. From there, the story spirals into a an existential battle for the survival of humanity.

This is a massive sci-fi adventure that happens well after we have learned FTL (faster than light) technology and the use of cryogenic stasis for long-term travel. We have been colonizing planets for three hundred years with only one sign of extraterrestrial intelligence, a huge construct that was certainly created by alien life, but those who built it are long gone. But once Kira finds the artifact, suddenly colonies are under attack by not one but two kinds of aliens, the Jellies and the Corrupted. What role did her discovery play in this new threat to humanity.



Sleep in a Sea of Stars is an exciting and gorgeous book. I love the world-creation and the imagination that gives us aliens who are not the usual bipeds. They are truly alien. I love how different their language is and how completely different their understanding of free will and existence is. Paolini imagines such a vibrant and different species with the Jellies that I am blown away.

It was hard to put the book down and I stayed up into the wee hours more than once. I hate to tell you anything because I don’t want to spoil any of the surprises and excitement of discovery. I love that this story is very much about Kira vs. Kira as much as about Kira and humanity vs. the aliens. I loved so many characters, most of whom were far more complex than most secondary characters. Exciting plot, well-developed characters, and a strong sense of place in places we have never been come together in a phenomenal book.

I received an e-galley of To Sleep in a Sea of Stars from the publisher through NetGalley.

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars at Tor/Forge  Macmillan

Christopher Paolini author site
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I didn't really know anything about this book going into it, and it was pleasantly surprising in a lot of ways. I am going to try my best not to spoil anything in this review, so details on plot will be as sparse as can be. Here's the deal. Our heroine, Kira, is a xenobiologist a couple of hundred years into the future. She goes to investigate the disappearance of a drone, and things happen. They happen in a way that, throughout the book, puts a clever and enjoyable spin on what could be some tired old cliches.

At one point Kira finds herself on a ship with a crew I instantly hoped would play a large role in the story because they seemed pretty great. There's also something called a "ship mind", which is essentially a giant brain that used to be inside a human, but chose to expand itself and run a spaceship, amongst other things.

It's a story that has a lot of great science fiction ideas in it, from aliens to faster-than-light travel. It also has action and some heartfelt moments. Peace, love, and understanding (as the song goes) plays a pretty big role at some parts, which was nice to see in a sci-fi book. 

It is a long book. There were some parts that slowed things down here and there, but I was always curious to see what Kira et al would have to deal with next. Another thing to note: This is (seemingly) a stand-alone story. Or, at least, things seem to be pretty neatly wrapped-up in the end. There are definitely other stories to be told in this universe, and I hope they are at some point (specifically I'd like to see more about the Entropists), but there aren't any cliffhangers that I feel like I'm going to have to wait an agonizing couple of years for another book to come out and resolve. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for a lengthy series of books, but it's nice to have a stand-alone once in a while.
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My Review:⭐️⭐⭐️⭐️/ 5 stars

I am not usually a sci-fi/fantasy reader in terms of aliens and space travel. However this colossal, epic (880 pages) book sold me. Paolini just builds up the world beautifully and in an understandable way (to the sci-fi newb like me anyways). It was action packed from beginning to end - easily a trilogy story but all in 1 book. I find this a positive in that it allows you to fully immerse in this whole world/solar system that is created. When they are in FTL travel, the book’s pace slows and gets a bit lonely and dark to really set the tone. There  were times when I didn’t think I could make it through the entire 800 + pages, but I had to know what happened. Brief premise: Kira Navárez  is a great heroine as she transforms from a xenobiologist about to settle down with her fiance to being in front of all the action after her encounter with an ancient relic. The story reminds me of the original Alien movies meets comic book character Venom. My favorite characters besides Kira is “jelly”  Ithar and Ship mind Gregoravitch - which interestingly enough are not the human characters. The only negative for me is that when there are parts that slowed down, the length of the book was a bit overwhelming. This epic novel is definitely worth it - even for those that do not usually read this genre, but its definitely not for faint of heart in terms of a “light read.” 

Thank you @netgalley and @torbooks   for the advanced copy in exchange for my honest review! It is out on Sept 15!
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Launching the Fractalverse: Christopher Paolini's 'To Sleep in a Sea of Stars' an epic space opera

Christopher Paolini began world-building at the age of 15, crafting an empire filled with dragons, riders and the adventures of a teenage boy. That world, “The Inheritance Cycle” tetralogy of novels, would earn the writer a Guinness World Record as a the youngest author of a bestselling book series.

More than two decades later, he’s still at it, although this time the world he’s constructed is built on more than pure fantasy. “To Sleep in a Sea of Stars” (TOR) is Paolini’s first foray into science fiction, and what a fantastical launch it is.

The new book is epic in both substance and stuff. An advance copy landed on a reviewer’s desk with a thud despite its cheap pulp pages and soft covers — the substance of critical reading copies not designed to last, unlike the story, eons — because the book is massive. The final hard copy will weigh in at nearly 900 pages and more than 2 pounds. The audio version, read in a publisher’s coup by Jennifer Hale, runs more than 30 hours.
But this is Christopher Paolini, an author who needs such an expanse to fully flesh his ever-burgeoning worlds. You’ll recall “Eragon” began as a trilogy, and even now the author has vowed to write a fifth Alagaesia story once his nearly decade-long work on “To Sleep in a Sea of Stars” is behind him.

And such is the promise of his new novel: Paolini has called the work a space opera, and one that will spawn future stories. “To Sleep in a Sea of Stars” opens with xenobiologist Kira Navarez unearthing an alien relic on an uncolonized planet. The relic will consume Navarez’s life, and is the beginning of a galactic epoch that will launch interstellar wars between some of the most unique species and technology in the genre. And more, not only is Paolini’s world-building complete, his characters are real and the science behind such subjects as spaceships traveling faster than light (FTL) consumes an entire appendix of its own.

Oh, and there is Gregorovich, the Wallfish’s ship mind. You’ll love Gregorovich— and the idea of a ship mind takes HAL 9000 to an all-new level.

But because this is a Christopher Paolini novel, the story is not only the story. There is something more the author is trying to tell us, and not just about the Fractalverse — the universe that encompasses “To Sleep in a Sea of Stars” — but of life, existence and the really big questions that consume our day-to-day. Paolini has said that metaphor is the “highest form of expression,” and in its sum and parts, “To Sleep in a Sea of Stars” offers such articulation.

Paolini recently offered to share his expression — and all things “To Sleep in a Sea of Stars” — with Mountain Times. The following interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Tom Mayer: I understand that your journey from fantasy to science fiction took some interesting turns and the better part of a decade. Would you talk about how you took a break from Alagaesia to craft the incredible Fractalverse and “To Sleep in a Sea of Stars?”

Christopher Paolini: Sure. First of all, I grew up reading science fiction as much as I read fantasy, so it felt like a very natural transition. I love science fiction. To me it’s often the fiction of the future, as fantasy is often the — I don’t want to say the past, but it often is colored by nostalgia and a longing for how things were. So, I wanted to write about where I thought humanity might be going and the future we might have once we expand out about the stars, which I do think should be our future. And, I wanted to have fun, too. I wanted to tell a big, entertaining story for readers that would take them on a journey that hopefully would entertain them, and give them a bit of heartache, excitement and perhaps a few bad jokes along the way.

TM: You’ve said that this novel is a love story to the genre.

CP: I did, and I mean it. There have been quite a few stories about aliens and first contact and all this other stuff, but I wanted to put my stamp on that and say the things I wanted to say with regard to a big science fiction space opera. I was very much inspired by a lot of the greats in the genre like the “Hyperion Cantos” by Dan Simmons, “Dune” by Frank Herbert, (Robert) Heinlein, (Isaac) Asimov, (Arthur C.) Clarke, (Ray) Bradbury, the “Alien” films, Ian M. Banks, who is a great British science fiction author. All of these and more gave me a love of the genre and helped inspire me to want to write my own science fiction story.

TM: Your hero in the story is a female. Kira Navarez is strong, smart and, like most heroes, ultimately flawed. To me, her Achilles' heel is her self-doubt and a sometimes lack of confidence. She boosts and overcomes both by the friendship and trust she develops with the crew on the Wallfish. Would you agree?

CP: I would. She does have a number of flaws, and the thing is that, too, there is a stereotype in fiction whether it’s books or movies or what have you. You know, the lone wolf character who keeps to themselves and manages to do amazing things, but they’re not really a team player. That sort of character can be a lot of fun to read about, but especially as I’ve gotten older, I don’t think that human beings operate particularly well all by themselves. There’s a reason why solitary confinement is considered punishment.

TM: That’s interesting, because a major theme I see running through the epic is the emotional damage of isolation and loneliness. There is Gregorovich, of course, whose forced isolation led him to a level of insanity and to comment, “to be alone and without purpose is to be among the living dead.”

And Kira, herself, faces such trials. As you write: “She didn’t want to be alone, not then. She needed to see another person, to hear their voice, to be comforted by the nearness of their presence and know that she wasn’t the only speck of consciousness facing the void.” I love that line, “the only speck of consciousness facing the void.” The fear of being alone permeates the novel, Christopher. Is this a comment on the human existence?

CP: To a degree. There’s the quote that “no man is an island,” but that’s only true if we make the effort to reach out to others. Of course, if you look at us on a cosmic scale, you know, here we are as a species on this tiny, little speck of dirt floating through the universe, and you know, what’s ultimately important is each other. Life is important. There is only one of you, or one of me or each of our readers in the entire universe. So, whether or not you believe in a higher power, the very fact that we are unique and alone in the universe makes every one of us living on this planet incredibly special. That’s why the theme of preserving life and companionship was something I kept returning to in the story as a major theme because, what else is as important?

TM: If that’s so, then Kira’s suffering decision at the end of the novel is a true hero’s act. She does what Gregorovich would not. Agree?

CP: I agree. But she also has an advantage that Gregorovich doesn’t have in that she’s not entirely alone. She has a “sort of” companion with her, joined with her, and she’s been given the gift of life, the ability to help spread and protect life — which is a responsibility that gives her purpose. You can endure anything if you have a sufficient sense of purpose.

TM: Other themes in the novel I sense are the ideas of unity and respect on myriad levels. Not only is the story populated with various sentient species, but even among those are some with disabilities of their own. Again, a reflection of our culture?

CP: Everyone faces challenges in their own lives, whether those are physical or mental or emotionally. None of us gets a free pass in life, and you can look at people who seemingly have everything in life, but you never know what’s going on in their head. You never know what personal challenges people are dealing with.

I found it interesting the question of, how do you relate and deal with your body when it no longer behaves or acts like the way you want it to be? It’s something we all have to deal with at some point, as we move out of adolescence. Just because your body isn’t the way you want it to be doesn’t mean that you’re a bad person. It doesn’t mean you are morally compromised, or anything of the sort. When that sort of thing happens you have to learn and grow and hopefully become stronger as a result. So, that was a very conscious thing I wanted to deal with in the story.

TM: Your allusions to Genesis, “The Farthest Shore,” “The Lord of the Rings,” “The Wizard of Oz” and so many others are seamlessly sown into this and your other novels. Why is it important for you to continue those earlier conversations and incorporate them into your own work?

CP: Culture is a conversation, especially creative works. It’s a conversation between what is and what has been done. I could not have written this book without all of the science fiction and other books I’ve read over the years, just like (J.R.R.) Tolkien couldn’t have written “The Lord of the Rings” without all of the European mythology and folklore that he was exposed to. But he grew and built upon it. And other authors built and grew upon what came before; especially with this book, because “To Sleep in a Sea of Stars” and the Fractalverse encompass the real world. If all of real history exists in the universe, then it felt disingenuous to not acknowledge some of those references, or make a sly wink at them and say, hey, you did this, but I’m doing this, instead. And, I love those sorts of things when I’m reading, also. I love seeing authors weave in side jokes and Easter eggs, and I think my readers enjoy them, also. It’s a nice way to say in a non-obvious way to the reader, I’m aware of what I’m doing and here’s the conscious acknowledgment of that.

TM: And along that vein, you’ve acknowledged your earlier novels with this one, have you not?

CP: There is a significant Easter egg between “The Inheritance Cycle,” the “Eragon” novels, and this book, yes.

TM: Well, we’ll leave that for readers to find. But, beyond this book, you have an interesting virtual book tour coming up, including one at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh. Would you talk about how those are going to work?

CP: Sure. First of all, all of the information on my tours are posted on my website, paolini.net, and all my social media. The way it’s going to work is that people can register with these different book stores for the different events, and the first hundred people — and you do have to pay to attend, essentially the price of a book — to register are going to get a signed bookplate for their book, and then at the event itself I’ll be in conversation with various other authors and interesting personalities and we’re going to be talking about the writing process of “To Sleep.” I’ll be reading from the book, telling interesting stories, hopefully making everyone laugh, doing Q & A and essentially having a good time.

TM: And speaking of virtual, you have Jennifer Hale reading the audio version of the novel. What a coup. And what a challenge for her, voicing more than 50 characters, including some who communicate through scent. Not all authors are happy with their audio release, but you must be pleased with this one.

CP: You’re right on. It’s like 52-53 characters. She did a wonderful job. This is her first audio book. She has the Guiness World Record for the most prolific (video game) voice actress and she’s done stuff for “The Lord of the Rings,” for Disney, a lot of video games, like Overwatch. I could just go on. She’s been doing stuff for so long it’s amazing.

I actually met her on book tour back in 2012 in Australia. We ended up chatting, and it turned out that she had done some uncredited work on the Eragon video game, and I threw out this offhand comment, “Well, I have this sci-fi book I’m working on and I’d love for you to read the audio book someday.”

You say a lot of things at conventions about wanting to work with people but schedules don’t always align and it doesn’t often actually happen. But when we were looking for an audio book actor to read “To Sleep,” we were all tearing our hair out trying to think of who would be good. And, it was actually my dad who said, 'Hey, you need somebody like Jennifer Hale.' And I said, 'Duh.' So, I hopped on Twitter and sent her a direct message and said, 'I don’t know if you remember me, but the book’s coming out and I’d be honored if you read it.' Well, as I said, it’s her first audio book and she just knocks it out the park.

TM: She did. I listened to all 32 hours of it, and the result is a phenomenal story experience.

CP: Wow. Yeah, and I do believe that people who order the audio book get a pdf download of all of the interior art from the book, also. There are seven pieces of art in the book that are maps and other cool diagrams. I did two or three of the maps and the others were done by my amazing assistant Immanuela (Meijer).

TM: Christopher, I have rarely seen an author who has had more apparent fun with a book launch. From releasing weekly excerpts and social media interactions to the excellent and really weird RTC newsfeed on your website, I want to thank you for the journey. 

CP: I’m glad it comes across that way, because I really am having fun with it. I’ve had the advantage of doing this a few times now, and I’m at the point in my career, in my life, that I know what I’m doing with it, I’m having fun. I want the readers to have fun. My goal is, not just with the book itself, but over the Fractalverse as a larger concept, is to just keep giving people interesting things from the universe that I hope they’ll enjoy, that I know I enjoy making. Because that is what all of this is about. It’s not like, "you have to buy this, you have to read this." No, it’s me telling a story that means a great deal to me personally, and hoping that it’s going to mean as much, or more, to readers all around the world.

TM: So, more fun, more stories coming out of the Fractalverse.

CP: Yeah, this is the setting that I want to tell essentially all of my future stories that are not exclusively fantasy. That’s why I put so much work into developing it, figuring out the science in it and generally thinking through what I wanted this to be. There are probably a few stories that aren’t fantasy that won’t fit in the Fractalverse, but the absolute majority of them are going to. And readers won’t have to wait very long to see more in the Fractalverse because I’ve already written a very long sequel novella, which will be released at some point. And, I’m currently working on revising a short prequel novel, which I actually wrote back in 2013. But it needs some decent work, so I’m picking that up now.

TM: You certainly did some extensive world building in “To Sleep in a Sea of Stars.” You have several appendices, and one just on the science behind the universe.

CP: I didn’t want to dump that on readers in the main part of the story. That’s not why they’re reading the story; it wouldn’t be fair to them. What I did want to do was to sort of show my homework so that if anyone is interested in the stuff the way I am, they can look at it and say, 'Oh, yeah, I see where you’re going. I understand why you made the choices you made.' And, it helps to make the universe feel more real in a concrete sense. But, yeah, trying to edit that very technical science was quite a challenge.

TM: Beyond the Fractalverse, you’ve promised readers another story from “The Inheritance Cycle,” haven’t you?
CP: I have. Once I finish this prequel novel, which shouldn’t take too long, I’ll step back and pick my next project. But, after doing a lot of science fiction like this, it would be nice to do a fantasy. 

TM: Last question: You were famously homeschooled as a child. Any advice to parents during this time of global pandemic with schools at least partially shuttered or pushing classes online?

CP: Sure, a couple of points. Within reason, try to make sure that your children have resources to do things they might be interested in. They might be interested in playing a musical instrument, and maybe there’s one in the house they could pick up if they’re so inclined. Maybe there’s some art supplies. Some tools. Maybe there’s a program so they can practice computer coding. They don’t need expensive equipment. Just enough for them to figure out if this is something they want to pursue as a career.

On top of that, I would say, figure out how your children learn. Personally, I do very badly when my attention is split over multiple subjects.

And, there are tons of resources available on the internet. And if you have younger children, and this is going to be a shameless self-promotional plug here, but my mom is a trained Montessori teacher and has developed her own educational methods and has a website called paolinimethod.com.

Last year, she released a couple of books, and the biggest book is called, “Read, write and spell.” In this book is exactly how she taught me and my sister to great success. It’s what I would hope to do with any children of mine in the future. Homeschooling can be a wonderful thing as long as parents are engaged with the process. Just as with anything in the world, custom is always going to be high quality if you can do a good job on it.
Now, you can get a wonderful education with the right public school, but if you can mange to provide a handcrafted education for your children you’re going to be leaps and bounds above everyone else — mainly because you know your children better than anyone else.

TM: I, and many parents, thank you for that. Before you leave, any last comments?

CP: Just this: I wrote “To Sleep in a Sea of Stars” in an attempt to capture the sense of awe and wonder I feel when I look up at the stars at night — and I look at the future that man may have out in the galaxy. I poured my heart and soul into this story over quite a few years, and I hope readers will enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Ultimately, when they reach the end of the book, my goal would be for readers to finish that last chapter, that last paragraph, that last scene, that last line and for the story to leave them with a tingle up their spine, and that sense of awe and perhaps even a bittersweet ache that the story has reached a conclusion.
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I wasn't at all sure what to expect from this book, because it is obviously very different from the Inheritance books! No dragons, but not we have space squids. I do love space squids. This was an original idea, and I was quite impressed with the plot and characters. I do think it started off a bit slowly, but by the time you get half way through or so, it starts getting more action oriented and exciting.
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This novel was a wild ride from the start to the end. If you're a fan of plot-driven books with lots of action, this is definitely it. So, in To Sleep In A Sea of Stars, we follow Kira, a xenobiologist who works on foreign planets analysing and collecting their biological flora and fauna. To her immense surprise, she ends up finding a massive discovery on the planet she's currently on that changes her life. This crazy alien dust ends up being an alien lifeform that completely changes the universe as humans know it as more is uncovered as a result.

I know I'm being super vague but that's because there are so many spoilers and so much to learn that you simply have to read it to find out! In general though, this book and Kira's story is about her experience as she makes first contact with aliens. Throughout the book, this story really solidified the difference between science fiction and science fiction fantasy for me. I had never given it that much thought but what really makes this science fiction is that it is set in our world; a world where we lived hundreds of years before and the characters we meet are living in a future that spans from now. Everything within this story is based on how humans expand their technology and reach to live on other planets and continue exploring; to find these other intelligent signs of life and aliens themselves.

First off, Paolini set up this world so well. I was entranced and needed to find out more about how Earth had changed and evolved as I kept reading. Technological advances are heavily involved in this book like travelling on ships by the speed of light and science-y goodness I can't even begin to fully comprehend, that any science nerd will relish. The back of this book is also filled with scientific research papers and such, so it's clear Paolini put a lot of work and research and effort into this book and it really shows.

When it comes to the story itself, I really enjoyed it! Kira was a great protagonist that had an interesting character development. While I never really connected to her well, I admired her actions and her perseverance and she gets put through some very tough situations (many life or death instances) and manages to pull through believably. I never felt I was disliking or even seeing any particular trope, Kira could have definitely been put into a position where she was the Chosen One but the book also made it very clear that anyone could have found what she did and who knows how they would've reacted and where things could have gone from there. The highlight of this book was definitely the side characters, I loved learning more about them and having a great spaceship crew with banter and team chemistry. It increased the stakes as things got more dangerous and filled with action, and it added so much more depth to the story. These characters didn't necessarily have a lot of character development per se, but I also felt like they didn't need it either.

The best and worst part of this book is the pacing. First off, the plot was written so well in that I had no idea what was going to happen next. I was always on the edge of my figurative seat, not knowing what else Paolini would throw at me in these pages. However, this book was like a science fiction novel incorporating the pacing of a K-Drama. At least for the first half of this book, it was a bit crazy how things would go from 0 to 100 then back down to 0. There were many peaks and high action moments with insane plot twists then suddenly sections that slowed down dramatically. It made it a little hard to get into the book because the pacing wasn't consistent nor had a specific end goal to the plot until 50-60% in when things really got going. That being said, it did manage to keep my attention and keep me reading because I wanted to get to the next part and find out what happens.

The pacing of this novel also made it apparent that this book is almost definitely 2 books in one. At 880 pages, Paolini could have easily cut it in half and sold it separately. The book was SO long, and with the decision to keep these two intertwined parts together, this novel could definitely have been cut down more. There were certainly parts of the book that bored me a little, but what I appreciated was that after the first perhaps 20-30%, Paolini's writing style became a lot easier to read.

The first chunk of the book was naturally more content-heavy as we were thrown deep into this futuristic setting. His writing style was similar to Eragon (from what I can remember), and I didn't spot any particular flaws except perhaps some action scenes that could've been written a little smoother at the beginning. What did strike me was the jarring writing style he sometimes switched to during visions/flashbacks. The style was so different and came off like he was trying to write in prose; with beautiful sentences and descriptions. Sure those excerpts added some flare but overall I wasn't a fan of the change, it was too jarring for me but I understand its purpose as a whole for the story too.

Despite all of that, this book was really enjoyable but as an adult science fiction novel, it was also quite exhausting. As someone that usually reads YA, it took more effort to immerse myself in this story at the beginning but I found myself seriously hooked by midway and itching to finish it by 60%. Even YA readers would enjoy this spectacular tale, and the idea that this is just the first book in this world is exciting because there is so much more to learn and discover about it. Unfortunately, the ending wasn't really totally my cup of tea. It was heartbreaking when one of my favourite characters didn't do so well, and how the story itself concluded and alluded to more in this world, but it will be interesting to see what others think of the ending and theories for what is to come next. Highly recommended for science fiction lovers and even science fiction fantasy fans alike. I'll definitely be on the lookout for the next book in this Fractalverse.
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I grew up with the Eragon books and I appreciate that this author has the opportunity to try to work in a new genre. I am always more critical on sci fi and I went into this novel expecting to be disappointed. I do think most sci fi and eragon fans will be pleased with it.
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