18 November 2013

Earth Girl


I was Jarra, a Military kid, trained in unarmed combat. A history lecturer and twenty-nine other history students couldn't scare me. I stepped into the portal and a new identity.

Centuries ago, thanks to the development of portal technology, humanity jumped to the stars. Earth became a graveyard, a museum, a-nice-place-to-visit-but-I-wouldn't-want-to-live-there. Unfortunately, some humans, born with a genetic deficiency which made off-planet portalling impossible for them, had to remain on Earth. They might be lucky and have children who, lacking the deficiency, might leave Earth. And unlucky portal-using parents might find their children, bearing the deficiency, would have to be sent to Earth at birth ...

Ape. Throwback. Nean. Jarra knows all the words for what she is, but she knows she's more than that. She's as good as any off-planet eighteen-year-old and she burns to prove it. Given a chance to study Pre-History (that's our today) during her Foundation Year, Jarra opts to study on Earth (as she must because DEATH) with an off-world university. She'll lie to everyone (except the university) about who/what she is, dazzle her classmates with her superior archaeological skills, and then destroy all their presumptions about "apes" by revealing who she is and laughing in their faces.

Or something like that. Trouble is, Jarra grows to like and respect her classmates. And the work they're doing is really compelling. But how can she tell them what she is without destroying the tentative trust and friendship they've built?

In addition to all the quality friendship and relationship building drama Edwards has packed into Earth Girl, her hard SF elements are fab. Earth Girl is as much about Jarra getting her nerd on as it is about her coming to grip with what she is. What with ruined New York, domes, impact suits, sleds, stasis boxes, hover belts, tag guns ... Edwards has built a future Earth I'd want to live in.

While I really liked Earth Girl's cover art -- rather metaphorical, mythological, and pre-Raphealite kind of vibe -- I do think it does the novel a disservice as it makes Jarra looked like a sad, brooding waif. There's also nothing about it to suggest the novel is full of hard SF elements. That said, I felt the same way about Beth Revis's Across the Universe trilogy and it won't stay on the library shelves so clearly publishers know who they are marketing to. It's just not me.

As a teen, I read a lot (perhaps too much?) of Elizabeth Moon and CJ Cherryh and there's a duology by Anne Mason I will cherish in my heart forever. So I've grown to expect "good" science fiction covers will have women in space suits (or Military-esque uniforms) and space ships and science-y stuff and shizzle. Not mopey barefoot girls in cotton summer dresses.

Anyway, the sequel should be coming out in April and I can't wait.

Earth Girl by Janet Edwards (Pyr, 2013)