The Adventures of Kate Readalong: Heartlight

Right, as promised, here we go, Squiders!

I found this to be an easy read (I read it in bits over three days) but it also rubbed me wrong a lot of times. Let’s get into it, shall we?

First off, I want to say that my cover is thoroughly ridiculous. I have the Tor July 1994 edition (the book was published in 1990), and it features a giant floating head of whom I suppose is Kate’s grandfather, through the age lines look unnatural, hovering over a yellow galaxy, with Kate (looking too old) holding a blue butterfly about the size of a toaster. I know covers really don’t matter in the long run, but I don’t know that I would have picked this book up based on that. Also, the back cover copy is wrong, plotwise, which–what?

Anyway, on to the book itself. Did you guys read this too? How similar in tone to A Wrinkle in Time would you say it is? I would say, tonewise, the two books are near identical. Both feature a reluctant young female protagonist whose sole purpose for being on an adventure is to save a family member, both feature formless evil entities, and both mix metaphysics into the general mix.

As a general summary, Kate and her grandfather are near inseparable. Grandfather (as he is referred to throughout the book, even when it’s in his own point of view) is an astrophysicist who has been studying something he calls pure condensed light (or PCL). PCL is the secret to how stars work, and also to faster-than-light travel. When he discovers that the sun’s PCL levels are plummeting at a rate that gives it only a short time to live, he springs into action, using PCL to jet about the galaxy in an attempt to find answers before it’s too late. It’s a bit more complex than that, but that’s the general gist. Kate discovers him gone and goes after him.

I’m not sure this book counts so much as an “Adventure of Kate” so much as a ‘Kate bounces about and screams for help a lot’ sort. I mean, she does eventually gain agency and is useful, and we can’t all be Katniss Everdeen, but I just wish her first predilection wasn’t to panic.

There is also a lot of head-hopping, which bothers me in general. You know, avoiding head-hopping is one of the first thing “they” teach you as a writer, yet the amount of it that gets into published books…

Anyway! This has always been my least favorite of the trilogy, and it still is. It reads vaguely first novel-y (and probably is), and even with the high concept astrophysics/metaphysics, still comes across a little simplistic. I mean, it is a middle grade novel, but I guess I’m just a little spoiled. There are some things that are a little convenient (everyone can communicate with no language barriers), but whether or not that bothers you probably depends on your level of suspension of disbelief.

I also feel like the novel ends on a weird note, which I’ve seen before with scifi (though I would not necessarily deem this true scifi), where the author feels they need to be unnecessarily weird and/or metaphorical. I can’t fault that too much–it’s a genre convention. Some people probably like it.

So! TL;DR–not my favorite. Not sure I would recommend it to people who haven’t read it. As I mentioned in the intro post for the readalong, I came in at The Ancient One and read the rest of the books based on the strength of that one.

Speaking of The Ancient One, that’s up next. It’s a longer book (~500 pages IIRC) so give yourself time if you’re following along. We’ll discuss on July 28, to give us an even month. I’m excited–as I said before, this was a formative book for me, so it will be interesting to see how it holds up under the test of time.

Read the book, Squiders? What were your thoughts?

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