This review contains spoilers for Our Child of the Stars.
The sequel to Our Child of the Stars will definitely delight those of us who loved the first instalment. It is a natural sequel, focusing on the aspects of the wider universe Cox hinted at in book 1, especially the menace the evil snake machines now pose to Earth becomes obvious and explicit, and also dealing with the fallout of Cory’s new-found fame throughout the world. The storyline also explores well the dilemma of Cory’s dual loyalty to two worlds so far apart in distance and thinking that inevitably someone will ask him to choose in a way that he can’t.
It’s not quite the sequel I hoped for. Many of the more interesting aspects of the story, the snakes, the history of Cory’s world, the meeting of his people and Earth, the peril the Earth is put in – they’re all there, but oddly backgrounded for something so important. The focus remains tight on Molly and Gene (Cory’s parents), and Cory’s interactions with a new friend. It poses for me a strange dilemma, because these character-centric and emotional scenes are the heart of the first book, but they don’t work as well in the second. I think it’s because in the first book, the book is really just about Cory hiding and surviving on Earth. In the second book, the emotion is meant to be background to the invasion of Earth, but since the heart of the story is in the characters, in the end, background stuff is foregrounded and vice versa.
But that being said, I think the book is still wonderful. It ticks off all the right notes, including an idealistic optimism that brings out the author’s world view, whilst still managing to pose enough questions about it that makes the book intelligent and not sappy. I love especially how Cox confronts the difficulty of pacifism when you come under attack, and where to draw the line as to when you fight. I also liked very much the relationship Cory has with a new girl he meets in this story. Her personality is sharp and rooted in painful experience and very believable, all without sacrificing the child in these children. Cox really can write children well. Not every adult can.
Most importantly, the tone of the book never wavers, never loses this wonderful, American-style optimistic shine, an achievement more spectacular for the fact that Cox isn’t American, as far as I know. There’s a wonderful magic about books that just warm your heart, a break from all the cynicism that’s in right now, and to which I am overly partial, I must admit. I have no idea if we’ll see more of Cory anymore, nor if I want to (a good story should know when to end), but I certainly hope we see more from Cox. And I’ll keep my eyes peeled for the next book he writes whenever it appears.