Book Review: Hold Back the Stars


Hold Back the Stars

Written by Katie Khan

320 /304 pages (HB/PB)

Published by Transworld Books (Random House UK)

Publication date: 26th January 2017 (HB) and 30th November 2017 (PB)

Summary (from Goodreads):

A startling and evocative novel, harkening to both One Day and Gravity, a man and a woman revisit memories of their love affair on a utopian Earth while they are trapped in the vast void of space with only ninety minutes of oxygen left.

After the catastrophic destruction of the Middle East and the United States, Europe has become a utopia and, every three years, the European population must rotate into different multicultural communities, living as individuals responsible for their own actions. While living in this paradise, Max meets Carys and immediately feels a spark of attraction. He quickly realizes, however, that Carys is someone he might want to stay with long-term, which is impossible in this new world.

As their relationship plays out, the connections between their time on Earth and their present dilemma in space become clear. When their air ticks dangerously low, one is offered the chance of salvation—but who will take it? An original and daring exploration of the impact of first love and how the choices we make can change the fate of everyone around us, this is an unforgettable read.

They are falling in space, spinning away from their ship, two pointillist specks on an infinitely dark canvas.

“We’re going to be fine.” He looks around, but there’s nothing out here for them: nothing but the bottomless black universe on their left, the Earth suspended in glorious technicolour to their right.

I am so glad that I was approved for this on Netgally, then spotted a hardback copy in my local library. Even if I hadn’t already heard of it through Netgalley I would probably have picked it up as I have a weakness for Science-fiction, books with ‘Stars’ in the title and the cover is just stunning. The paperback cover is lovely too, but have added a hardback copy to my Christmas list…

The story is a fairly unique idea (though I did read an excellent fanfic years ago which followed the characters last ten minutes in space with failing oxygen!) and I enjoyed how the backstory was fleshed out with flashbacks, while the countdown really ramped up the tension. The language geek in me loved that moving around different countries and speaking different languages was celebrated and normal, as well as the fact that the two main characters meet through chatting in multiple languages while one of them is studying in a language-learning centre – this is my kind of utopia!

The author’s notes at the back of the book state that she was inspired by the lead-up to the Olympic Games in London and the happy, inclusive mood inspired by the Games. I really liked how she translated this into the world she created. The Science-fiction geek in me wanted some more of the Science, as the steps by which Max and Carys ended up in space stretch the reader’s credulity at times, particularly with certain revelations about the technology which appear near the end of the book.

A dedicated Science-fiction reader may be disappointed by the lack of Science as the focus is very much on the romance. However, I am a massive fan of character-driven books so Ireally enjoyed this!

Pick this up if you fancy something a bit different, a musing on what makes us human and what we value and, overall, and an affirming read which reminds you of what it means to live and love.

‘Doubt thou the stars are fire, 

Doubt thou that the sun doth move,

Doubt truth to be a liar,

But never doubt I love.’

What I liked: Speculative utopian/dystopian future with Europia and America, the messages about being multilingual and multi-cultural and how that is celebrated and the norm, the main characters and their respective relationships with their friends and families.

Even better if: I am torn about the ending…still can’t decide if it made the book for me or didn’t fit.

How you could use it in your classroom: I probably wouldn’t except with an older teen or adult class, where it could serve as an interesting discussion starter about what we truly value. Saying that, please also keep in mind that although this is marketed as an adult novel, there is nothing in here that would be inappropriate for a younger reader, although that does depend on what your guidelines are – for example, in this world people are encouraged to avoid pairing up or settling down until they are at least 35 years old, with many taking that as license to have ‘strings-free’ relationships. There is also mention of miscarriage and death. As always, I would recommend reading any book yourself before recommending it to others.

(Thank you to Transworld Books and Netgalley for my e-ARC and to my local library for having a hardcover copy in stock!)

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Thanks for reading!

17 Comments Add yours

  1. Sounds like an interesting read. Very lovely cover indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

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