________________ CM . . . . Volume XX Number 34. . . .May 2, 2014


Tin Star.

Cecil Castellucci.
New York, NY: Roaring Brook Press (Distributed in Canada by Raincoast Books), 2014.
233 pp., hardcover, $18.99.
ISBN 978-1-59643-775-3.

Subject Headings:
Human-alien encounters-Fiction.
Space stations-Fiction.
Science fiction.

Grades 7-12 / Ages 12-17.

Review by Andrew Laudicina.

*** /4



…I stepped toward the window slowly, as though I were a ship making an approach. I liked to trick my eyes and see the planet get larger. When I got close to the window, I slipped off my shoes and stepped right into the potted flower box, wiggling my toes into the dirt. Dirt. How it made memories of Earth rush back. My whole life had been made of dirt and now it was measured by the sheer lack of it. I was starving for dirt.

I put my hands up to the window, pressing my palms flat against it. It was thick—too thick to feel either the coldness of space or the warmth of the weak sun. I put my forehead on the window and opened my eyes. If I squinted just right, I could trick myself into thinking that I was falling freely through space that I was tumbling toward that planet. It was the only way that I could feel free, even for one small moment, from my circumstances.


En route to the frontier planet of Beta Geranade, 14-year-old Tula Bane is brutally assaulted and left for dead abroad a backwater alien space station. Though severely injured, Tula is discovered by station authorities and makes a full recovery. She takes an alien as a friend, and, under his direction, she works as a trader and scavenger servicing the station’s black market. She earns enough for food; the rest she saves with the hope that one day she can afford a pass to leave the station and seek out her attacker, the highly revered and charismatic Brother Blue. Life continues like this for quite some time; she grows accustomed to her surroundings and the familiar faces she sees in her dealings, almost forgetting what was done to her. All of this changes with the arrival of three shipwrecked humans. Tula enquires about their travels, and, upon hearing the name Brother Blue, she hungers once again for revenge. A plan is hatched, but acting on it may risk harming those closest to her and possibly plunge Earth into an intergalactic conflict it has no hope of surviving.

     An intriguing opening sets a gripping tone and pace which the immediate subsequent chapters cannot maintain. This lull, while brief (roughly only thirty pages long) falls victim too often of summarizing major events and actions of Tula’s life in the aftermath of her recovery. As a result, Tula’s interactions with aliens and the defining relationships and friendships she establishes (which come to have a bearing on the book’s finale) are severely lessened.

     Oddly, this stands in contrast to the vividness of the world building offered by Castellucci. In what is a refreshing break from the popular norm, aliens are not a homogeneous group but are a diverse and varied lot with a defined hierarchy delineated into major and minor species according to their space faring prowess; humans are grouped in the latter classification, novices just starting to settle the stars. Appearances aside—some have wings, others tentacles—aliens possess personalities, thoughts and emotions that are (both fortunately and unfortunately) all too human.

     Castellucci’s bare-bones approach to writing nicely complements Tula’s personal isolation and the cold and sterile environment of her space station home. The short and simple sentences employed throughout, however, pack a surprising punch. Likewise, themes—isolation, survival, what it means to be human—break no new ground for the genre but are, nevertheless, complex and impactful, especially towards the end. Readers should expect much of the same with the series moving forward, if the book’s hopeful ending is any indication, Tula will at last receive her long sought after revenge and possibly even a good measure of justice.


Andrew Laudicina is a MLIS graduate from the University of Western Ontario in London; he currently resides in Windsor, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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