A Novel Idea: Mac’s book club reviews “Skyward”

Jenna Jereb

A Novel Idea, Macalester’s student-led book club, is excited to follow up on our reviews of “A Very Large Expanse of Sea” and “The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue” with one more book review this semester. This time we’re back to share with you our review of Skyward by Brandon Sanderson. This review is based on the discussion we had at our March meeting. If you are interested in reading along and joining our discussions, or leaning more about our club, please email us at [email protected]

“Skyward” by Brandon Sanderson is a young-adult science fiction novel set on the fictional planet, Detritus. “Skyward” follows a young pilot-in-training named Spensa — callsign: Spin — through her time at the planet’s military academy. Spensa has spent her life in her father’s shadow — which isn’t a good one. Although Spensa remembers her father as a brave and caring man, society remembers him for being the infamous pilot who abandoned his fight squad in their most decisive historical space battle. And in a militaristic society dependent on its pilots for survival, there is no greater crime than being a deserter. Spensa is forced to confront who her father really was and who her enemy actually is.

Spensa fights back against her family’s tainted name to earn herself a place in flight school, and the stakes for human survival increase as she and her fellow cadets train. An alien force known as the Krells only grows stronger while the human clans on Detritus continue to lose pilots and tech. With her fellow cadets washing out around her and choosing to eject, an action a pilot will take to sacrifice their ship and save themselves — viewed as the coward’s choice, Spensa has to decide what being a pilot means to her and what it means to truly be brave. This conflict between bravery and cowardice, and the value on pilot’s lives versus the technology of ships that protects the people of Detritus, is Skyward’s most poignant element.

We would recommend this book to anyone interested in taking a quick delve into the land of science fiction. While the world-building in “Skyward” is confined to the planet of Detritus and the stars nearby, Sanderson created a world that captivated us. We appreciated “Skyward”’s focus on Spensa’s personal development and growth, as well as her budding friendships — Spensa’s fellow cadets are fully fleshed-out characters with unique personalities that make Skyward continually entertaining, even in the darkest scenes. You won’t find romance in “Skyward”, so if a love-story is a must for you, pass on “Skyward”. However, if slow-burn is your thing, we have strong suspicions that the upcoming sequel — “Starsight” — will capitalize on some swoon-worthy scenes. With action-packed fight scenes in the skies, a talking ship named M-Bot who becomes Spensa’s unlikely ally, a quirky doomslug and a flight leader called Jerkface, “Skyward” achieves an epic balance between societal critiques and flying fun.