The Sound of Stars, by Alechia Dow. Young Adults
The Aliens have landed! In Alechia Dow’s hugely entertaining debut novel, the Ilori have taken over planet earth and enslaved the population – not in a bad way so far (and they wouldn’t have been forced to kill huge swathes of the world population if a certain power-crazy president hadn’t attacked them first, destroying a number of their space ships), but with a view to eventually feeding everyone a vaccine which will disable their minds, thus leaving their bodies ‘a perfect husk’ for rich, planet-hopping true Ilori to inhabit so that they can enjoy touring the world and its beauty in style and comfort. All true Ilori are fabulously rich and continually looking for new places to amuse them; earth is the latest planet to be added to their ‘to-do’ list.
True Ilori have created minor versions of themselves, Labmade Ilori, to do the hard yards and unpleasant chores, like keeping humans in check, keeping them fed, housed and occupied until the mind-killing vaccine is perfected, and in New York City, 16 year old Janelle ‘Ellie’ Baker lives with her parents, neither of whom are handling the occupation well: Mum has hit the booze and Dad has already been injected with a substance that has turned him into a stranger, a guard loyal only to the Ilori. Ellie finds comfort and refuge in nothing but her forbidden, hidden library of books, wonderful stories of life as it used to be in all its imperfection – and freedom. She lends these books secretly to others who need the succour and relief of escapism from their terrible situation; she has a collection of music too (also forbidden, for the true Ilori don’t feel emotion. They are neither happy nor sad.). Music gladdens her heart; she will survive with these treasures until the vaccine ends her life.
Until an Ilori finds one of her books and reads it, makes contact and blackmails her into giving him some music to enjoy: HOW CAN THIS HAPPEN??? Ilori don’t care for human pursuits, but M0Rr1S does – he has been programmed by his powerful mother to be a labmade Ilori with a difference: he has feelings, and his secret mission is to instigate a rebellion against the true Ilori. But he never expected to feel the overwhelming happiness of falling in love, or the terrible heartache of loss: M0Rr1S and Ellie are truly star-crossed lovers.
Ms Dow tackles many age-old questions here: racism (Ellie is black) greed, apathy, NIMBYism – all the usual human failings, versus trust, loyalty, love – and music and stories. Her story is mighty! SIX STARS.