Title: “Dove Arising”
Author: Karen Bao
Publisher: Viking (Penguin)
Genre(s): science fiction, young adult
Part of a Series: Possibly
Why I read it: Because it was free.
Note: I received a copy of this book at Comic Con by a representative from Penguin, who owns Viking.
Summary: Earth has become a wild place to live and most of humanity has escaped to the moon. But life there isn’t quite what it seems. The government operates in shadows and monitors everyone on the bases. Phaet Theta lives a comfortable existence with her widowed mother, younger brother and younger sister. She is on track to go into botany along with her best friend Umbriel. Then one day, medical personnel take her mother away. She and her siblings face losing their home and having to move into a shelter, a horrible place. Phaet decides to try and get into the military despite not being the age for mandatory service. She makes it and her life changes forever as she learns truths about her life on the Moon.
Review: It should be noted that Karen Bao is only 19. I’m not saying that in a derogatory way. I’m saying that in a “We should be really impressed” way. Because Bao has a good amount of skill as a writer. There are a few areas she needs to work on, but overall, she has a bright future ahead of her.
Now, onto Dove Arising. Like much of YA lately, it tells of a dystopian future. This time, it’s on the moon. And it’s a clever set up. It’s alien enough yet it is also familiar. A place where resources are naturally limited and where people may not question how their lives are run. Where everything is orderly and controlled by a shadowy council.
One of the areas I felt Bao needs a little more improvement on is with her main character, Phaet. She is also the narrator. It can be hard to balance narrating and character building when writing that way. She also needs to work on balancing “showing” and “telling.” It’s something all writers struggle with. For example: Phaet doesn’t speak much. And this appears to be a Big Deal. But we are told this. When Phaet does speak, it’s not as big of a deal as it should’ve been. It should’ve been a jolt to the reader. But it lost that impact because it was in the first person. We always knew her inner thoughts. So we heard her voice. It would’ve been more impactful if it had been told in third person and then she spoke.
Just my opinion. YMMV.
Moving on to more positive aspects. Ms. Bao’s story really takes off once Phaet joins the military. Probably because Phaet really comes into her own there. She finds her inner strength and new friends. Including Wes, who had been part of the team that had taken her mother to medical. Phaet isn’t keen to trust him but he still takes her under his wing. He helps her improve so she can remain in the military. She needs the money to help her family with their mother in medical so her siblings don’t end up in Shelter. But Wes still wants to beat her, to get the top spot amongst their military class.
Wes and Phaet’s friendship is interesting. It feels more real than the one with Umbriel, who we are told is her best friend. Umbriel wants to be more than friends and makes it clear. Phaet…just seems to go with it because it’s easy. Because she knows Umbriel and he’s safe. She also doesn’t seem to harbor much by way of romantic feelings. For most of the book, I wondered if Bao had made an aromantic, asexual character. But then there were hints of Phaet and Wes having feelings for each other. Which is fine but I would’ve liked to see an asexual character.
There’s a sense of danger throughout Phaet’s military training. It’s well known recruits can get injured and/or die during training. A recruit does die during Phaet’s, scaring the recruits. But they continue on, with command acting like nothing happened. A hint that something is wrong, including the fact that Phaet’s mother is arrested upon being released from medical. Her mother is a journalist and is charged with unpatriotic writing. That means she wrote something that didn’t flat out praise life on the Moon. They just accept this as normal and don’t see how this is problematic.
She is very good at action sequences, which is impressive. Many writers struggle with them. Bao draws the reader in and makes hearts pound as Phaet’s..fate…is up in the air. Just like Phaet, the readers don’t know who to trust. It’s a great sprint to the finish.
Bottom line: A good first outing from a promising writer.
Do you like dystopian novels?