On their way to start a new life, Tula and her family travel on the Prairie Rose, a colony ship headed to a planet in the outer reaches of the galaxy. All is going well until the ship makes a stop at a remote space station, the Yertina Feray, and the colonist's leader, Brother Blue, beats Tula within an inch of her life. An alien, Heckleck, saves her and teaches her the ways of life on the space station.
When three humans crash land onto the station, Tula's desire for escape becomes irresistible, and her desire for companionship becomes unavoidable. But just as Tula begins to concoct a plan to get off the space station and kill Brother Blue, everything goes awry, and suddenly romance is the farthest thing from her mind.
About the Author
Cecil Castellucci is a two-time MacDowell Colony fellow, an award-winning author of five books for young adults, and the YA and children's book editor of the Los Angeles Review of Books. Born in New York City, Cecil lives in Los Angeles. For the research of Tin Star, Cecil attended LaunchPad, a NASA funded workshop intended to teach writers of science fiction about the most up-to-date and correct space science.
Cecil Castellucci's books include Boy Proof (Candlewick, 2005), The Plain Janes (Minx/DC Comics, 2007), The Year of the Beasts (Roaring Brook, 2012), and Tin Star (a 2015 Sunburst Award Winner). She collaborated with artist Sara Varon on Odd Duck, a graphic novel for young readers. She is the YA editor of the Los Angeles Review of Books and a two-time Macdowell Fellow. She lives in Los Angeles.
Read an Excerpt
There are few things colder than the blackness of space. But lying here, I couldn't imagine anything colder than the Human heart that left me half- conscious at the entrance to Docking Bay 12.
I knew where I was. I was on a space station called the Yertina Feray, sixteen light years from Earth, orbiting a depleted, lifeless planet. I knew where I was supposed to be, on the Children of Earth colony ship, heading for the planet Beta Granade. And I knew what Brother Blue was thinking, that my body was no longer his problem.
Again I felt his boot come toward me, determined to kick my life away. I braced myself for the blow and then played dead. He kicked me one last time, and satisfied that I was truly gone, he pulled me beside the cargo canisters of grain that had been loaded off our ship, the Prairie Rose.
My nose mask had been ripped off, and the station's base atmosphere mix wasn't going to keep me conscious for much longer. I cracked open one of my swollen eyes as much as I dared. I wanted to get a good look at him as he stood there above me, taking a moment to compose himself.
I had gone from being one of his favorite colonists, with prospects for a good future with the Children of Earth, to persona non grata in a matter of days. I never knew a fall could be so quick.
Brother Blue had taken a special interest in me when he discovered that I could speak a passable Universal Galactic. I had always been good at languages. But Brother Blue discouraged colonists from learning Universal Galactic or getting the nanites to make communication and breathing easier.
"We are setting up Human-only colonies," he had said. "You won't be interacting with others. Our mission is to preserve Human ways." He discouraged us all from knowing too much about the galaxy and other cultures. Earth was isolationist, and our colonies would follow suit. We would bring Human culture to the stars and trade with aliens and be richer for it, but we would keep to ourselves. This was Brother Blue's promise.
Brother Blue spent hours telling me his dreams for colonization, flattering me with musings of how high I could rise in the ranks of Children of Earth.
"I'm grooming you, Tula Bane," he said. "You are exactly the kind of person that the Children of Earth needs to help in its cause."
He had this way of making me feel as though I was the only colonist that ever counted. His look was penetrating, and when he spoke of his vision for Humanity, I was ready to sacrifice anything to help him achieve it. I wasn't the only one that felt this way. All of the colonists of the Children of Earth felt as though they had been specially chosen by Brother Blue. It was an honor. Even though I had only reluctantly joined because of my mother's devotion to his cause, I soon felt at one with the group.
When we were diverted to the Yertina Feray due to a ship malfunction, I became even more essential to Brother Blue. He put me to work delivering messages to various aliens that he had to deal with to ensure our ship's repair. I was one of the few colonists who ventured out of the docking bay where we had set up camp. I felt special each time I stepped onto another level of the station.
I imagined my future. It looked so bright. I could be important, perhaps a leader, on our new colony. I imagined rising through the ranks of the Children of Earth. I ran through the colors that I might choose as my name when I had proved my worth. Sister Grey. Sister Lilac. Sister Teal. Sister Gold.
But then something changed.
I had often been sent to Kitsch Rutsok's bar to deliver messages back and forth between Brother Blue and representatives from the League of Worlds; they held the reins to our colony's future. But in the last few days, Brother Blue had gone himself and I wasn't needed.
And today, the day we were to leave the Yertina Feray Space Station, I saw our cargo — cargo that should have been on the ship — sitting on the docking bay floor. This was a terrible oversight. It would be disastrous for our colony if we didn't have the grain we needed to start our new life. The grain was the beginning of how we would tame Beta Granade. Life would already be hard there; and without the cargo, sustaining life would be nearly impossible.
Why were the other colonists not concerned that the grain that we were to plant with was being left behind? Why did no one else notice? I asked my mother, who shrugged.
"Brother Blue knows what he's doing," she said.
My mother used to always argue with my father when he was alive, question him all the time, but she never did with Brother Blue. He was always right in her eyes.
I pointed the grain out to a few others, who seemed unperturbed by the cargo on the deck.
It was as though no one wanted to see it. But it bothered me. It made no sense.
"Sir," I said to one of the ship's officers milling about on deck. "Why is that cargo still out here and not on the ship?"
The young officer turned to look at the cargo and then called over to another officer who shook her head. But at least they agreed with me that it seemed strange.
Brother Blue was called over, and he listened to our concerns with an attentive look. When he'd soothed the officer's worry, he took me over to a private corner.
He had his hand on my shoulder in a way that he had a million times before. Only before it was comforting, encouraging, affectionate. Now it was menacing. He was looking at me and his face was smiling. To anyone looking from afar, he seemed to be pleased with me, but it was just a mask. His attitude shifted from concerned leader to unknowable monster.
"What place do you have to question my orders?" he hissed.
Suddenly I was unsure of myself and of what I knew. Although this was my first and likely only trip into space, I already knew that things could very easily go wrong.
Surely he didn't need me to explain the importance of that cargo to him. I would have thought that he would be happy that I'd noticed. I felt confused by his reaction. Was I wrong?
No. I couldn't be. We were going to be settling a planet. While there were indigenous plants, it could take years before we cataloged what could or couldn't be consumed by Humans. The Children of Earth had a calling: to make a Human oasis among the stars. Our plans for colonization came at a high price, because once we left Earth, we were exiled for good. Earth Gov had a different priority: to rebuild from years of drought and plague. But we of the Children of Earth were certain that in the long run we were doing our best for the future of Humanity, just as those who'd left before in the generational ships had. We needed the grain and the seeds to ensure that future.
"We'll need that grain," I said. "We colonists will need those supplies."
"Tula Bane," he said. "You really are very smart. It's a pity that you don't listen to me."
"But I do listen to you," I said. "I am trying to be helpful. Brother Blue, I'm just trying to learn."
He considered me thoughtfully. His grip on my shoulder was no longer threatening. It was a pat of confidence, just like he used to give me when I had done something right. Relief flooded me. His smile changed to something more genuine. "Child, I hear you. I see you. But do not concern yourself in affairs that you know nothing about," Brother Blue said. "Learn to unlearn."
"Yes, Brother Blue," I said, bowing my head in respect. He had a vision, and he had knowledge that I did not. We all trusted that he knew what was best for us.
"Have I not already helped four Human colonies settle the rocky planets that the League of Worlds has so graciously leased us? Beta Granade will be the fifth," he said. "I know what I'm doing, Tula Bane."
"Of course, Brother Blue," I said. "I didn't mean to question your orders."
"I can see that you didn't," he said. "You were being enthusiastic, but I need you to follow and do what I say."
"Yes, Brother Blue," I said.
"I need you to go to the Brahar ship on Docking Bay 5 and make a delivery."
"But I want to help here," I said, "with the load in." The errand would take me away from the preboarding preparations.
"Do as I ask, Tula," Brother Blue said, and then he flashed that smile. The one that made you feel as though you were the only person in the universe. How could I have ever doubted that Brother Blue knew what he was doing?
"There are plenty of strong bodies to load," Brother Blue assured me.
I had no choice but to obey his wishes as we set about our final preparations. I took a bag heavy with fresh food, salts, and water from Earth to the docking bay with the Brahar ship and gave the bag to the captain. Its value was great. I tried to ignore the desperate aliens who were begging for work near his ship.
"Tell him that she's fueled and ready to go," the Captain said.
I made my way back to join Brother Blue, my family, and the other colonists before reboarding commenced for the final leg of the Prairie Rose's voyage.
I felt relieved to see the docking bay had been cleared. The error had been corrected; I needn't have worried after all. I took a look around the hangar. We were nearly ready to go. I delivered the message to Brother Blue who seemed to understand it. He smiled at me and touched my face.
"Tula, for one so young, you've been such a help to me on this voyage," Brother Blue said coming up to me as I stood with my mother and my sister, Bitty.
"Thank you, Brother Blue," I said, "for the opportunity to be of service."
"We're very proud of her," my mother chimed in.
"Come with me, Tula. I have something for you," he said. "A gift."
"A gift?" I said.
"Good work must be rewarded."
I looked at my mother and sister. They were nervous. My mother did not like space travel although it was she who had decided to move the family off of Earth. Bitty was three years younger than I was and frightened of everything.
"I'd rather stay with my mother and sister," I said.
"I insist," he said.
"It's all right," Mother said. Her pride was showing as the others took notice of the special attention Brother Blue was giving me. She nudged me forward. The higher I rose, the better it would be for all of us. "We'll be fine without you for a little while."
I followed Brother Blue to the hangar's anteroom and there, stacked in the corner, were the bins of grain.
"They're still not onboard," I said.
Surely this time he would explain to me why they were not on the ship.
"You held such promise, Tula. But you have eyes that see in the dark," Brother Blue said. "It's such a disappointment that you had to exhibit this independent streak so late in the game. If I'd seen it earlier, I'd never have taken you under my wing."
"I don't understand," I said.
But instead of answering, it was then that he punched me in the face.
"Why?" I tried to ask, blood filling my mouth.
He hit me again, and now I was too stunned to scream. He did not stop until I was limp. At some point my air mask was knocked off, and the atmosphere of the space station struck me as though it were another blow.
It was only when he thought that I was dead that he moved away from me, into the hangar where the colonists were gathered, leaving me behind the forgotten cargo bins full of grain that had so concerned me.
I wanted to groan, but my lungs ached. I wanted my mother. But I could not call out. I wanted to promise Brother Blue that I would not question his wisdom or mention the cargo bins ever again. But I knew better than to let on that he had not finished the job.
I strained my ears to listen as he gave a speech to his followers.
"Brothers and sisters of Earth! You are on an incredible journey! I envy you as you set out to your new home. Circumstances have forced a change in my plan. I must deal with the politics and datawork that the League of Worlds requires."
He explained that he would instead be heading to Bessen, a moon which served as the capital of the League of Worlds, to consult with the Five Major Species and the other Minor Species members about new planets that the Children of Earth were bidding for. He would then go back to Earth. He informed the colonists that he had bought a small ship that would leave immediately after the Prairie Rose left. I listened to more of his speech, but he did not mention rendezvousing with the colonists on Beta Granade at a later date.
That was a significant change in plan.
Brother Blue always went with the colonists all the way to the planet for first landing day. Only when the first season was through and the colony was deemed as thriving would he go back to Earth to handle the coordinating and recruiting of the next batch of colonists.
There was a collective moan of fear from the colonists. Brother Blue had promised he'd be there with us every step of the way. He had so often told us that he was the only one who could protect us on our journey from the perils of space, from aliens, and from the Humans left over from the generational ships, who'd set out for the stars in the past, settled nowhere, and wandered and roamed. They had grown too wild to join the Children of Earth colonies and were not welcome back on Earth.
I wanted to stand up, but I could not move. And if I did, I was afraid he would surely finish me off. Cowardice kept me quiet.
He continued, hushing them like a soothing father.
"I know, I know. It's disappointing to me as well. But you are the true pioneers! I am envious of your adventure. The first days on a new planet, full of hope and possibility, is my favorite part of the mission to settle the worlds that we aim to call home. I will think of you as the Prairie Rose heads to its new planet. And wish you speed and light as you begin to grow and build and make your new home. Although Earth Gov does not appreciate it yet, you are doing a great thing for Humanity. And when times get tough, as we already see they can by our unscheduled stop here, remember that what you do, your courage, your strength, your perseverance, will always be remembered."
There was applause. Then I listened as the colonists began to board the Prairie Rose. Brother Blue was likely standing at the entrance to the ship, and I could hear him as he shook hands with every one of the colonists and wished them luck.
Surely my family had noticed by now that I had gone missing. I shifted my body and watched as best I could from behind the crates as my fellow Earthling colonists filed past the anteroom that hid me. They walked in order, as they had been taught. They walked with their heads down, as they had been taught. What I had long suspected was true: We only saw what we were told to see. But now I was seeing something else: Brother Blue was like a magician I'd seen once when I was young, distracting the eye from what he was really doing. I thought back to all of the times that he'd confided in me and realized that they were all tactics to keep me from asking questions. I'd been fooled. The grain had been the last in a long line of things that had bothered me somehow. His words always told a different story, a soothing story, a logical explanation for things that didn't add up. All along I'd known deep down inside that something was not quite right. But I'd been blinded by my desire for a position in the future with Children of Earth. I had been kept in place by not wanting to rock the boat.
I would not make that mistake again.
Though blurry, I watched as Brother Blue approached my mother and sister and heard him say, "Tula will be traveling with me, Mrs. Bane. She's too valuable a right hand man for me to give her up now."
"Yes, Brother Blue," she said. "We're so happy for her prospects."
"She'll rise very high under my tutelage."
And there it was. No one would suspect that it could be otherwise. My family would never know or have cause to believe that he would lie.
Brother Blue stayed until the last colonist was onboard. He stayed until the docking door swung and clicked shut with a hiss of air. He waited until the sound of the ship unclamping from the station came. Only then did he walk away. From where I lay, I could see that he did not look disturbed that he had just broken his word to the 167 colonists in his care. He looked relieved.
And then he was gone.
No one would care about a dead body on the docking bay. I'd seen plenty of them. They were robbed and then disposed of by the rabble of aliens who looked for work on the few ships that docked.
But I was not dead yet.
Excerpted from "Tin Star"
Copyright © 2014 Cecil Castellucci.
Excerpted by permission of Roaring Brook Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Read from December 03 to 26, 2013 Book Info ebook, 240 pages Expected publication: February 25th 2014 by Roaring Brook Press original title Tin Star ISBN 1596439149 (ISBN13: 9781596439146) edition language English other editions (2) Source:Netgalley EARC Book Buy Links AMAZON B&N BOOK SYNOPSIS On their way to start a new life, Tula and her family travel on the Prairie Rose, a colony ship headed to a planet in the outer reaches of the galaxy. All is going well until the ship makes a stop at a remote space station, the Yertina Feray, and the colonist's leader, Brother Blue, beats Tula within an inch of her life. An alien, Heckleck, saves her and teaches her the ways of life on the space station. When three humans crash land onto the station, Tula's desire for escape becomes irresistible, and her desire for companionship becomes unavoidable. But just as Tula begins to concoct a plan to get off the space station and kill Brother Blue, everything goes awry, and suddenly romance is the farthest thing from her mind. My Thoughts The story of 17-year-old Tula Bane spans a period of several years and starts when she reveals that she knows something she was not supposed to with the end result of her being beaten, left for dead and then abandoned on the remote space station of Yertina Feray. The only human amongst the multitude of aliens who inhabit the space station Tula luckily is found, revived and healed by the station’s doctor and later on befriended by the sole Hort named Heckleck who not only helps her by giving Tula employment but teaching her about the other alien species as well. Soon the pair have a thriving business between them, making both Tula and Heckleck enough to live on as well as giving them both at least one ally to count on amongst the others who live in the underbelly of the space station. I thought the book was a bit slow paced and then it became a bit rushed when action started to happen, Tula is the main character and allowing us to see everything through her eyes the entire book makes it fairly narrow in scope but at the same time since she stated from the beginning her knowledge of the rest of the world was limited this makes sense, also when things change and she finally has other humans living on the space station it becomes very obvious that Tula has become more of an “alien” herself as she does not really know how to interact any other way anymore. The way in which Tula adapts, while fighting not only the loneliness that comes from being the only one of her kind but the depression of losing her mother and sister, is a testimony to the resilience most humans are capable of but never utilize since their lives follow a logical orderly path. Not a fan of the ending, there was no true resolution but since this seems to be the beginning of Tula’s adventure it may prove that someday the intrigue that she has uncovered will be dealt with later on in another book. Not a bad beginning to a series but not really something I am wanting to pursue further as it was not exciting enough to want find out more about what happens and there are too many other books on my wishing to read list that are waiting for me to dive into. I found myself torn while reading and kept putting this book down within a 20 day period and finding something else with the pace and action to keep me enthralled from beginning to end so apparently Tula Bane’s story was not for me after all. [EArc from Netgalley in exchange for honest review]
What started as a promise of a new beginning on a distant planet for Tula Bane and her family turns into a nightmare of death, destruction and brutal deceit at the hands of a man Tula had once trusted with her life. Stranded and alone, the only human on an alien space station, Tula learns to survive by any means from Heckleck, an insect-like creature. Driven by the need for revenge, Tula yearns for the day she will see Brother Blue again and he will pay for the pain he has caused her. A career petty thief now, Tula feels the ever-present and watchful eyes of the law on her. Everywhere she turns, there is Tournour. Talk about cramping her business style! After years of never quite fitting in, being the only human around, her life becomes a little more complicated as three humans come aboard. Will they be friend or foe? Is Tula attracted to one of them in a romantic way or will she discover someone else may be the one for her? Tin Star by Cecil Castellucci is an “out of this world” addition to the Sci-fi genre, filled with intrigue, aliens and truly creative writing! I wasn’t just reading about the interior of this space station, I was moving along inside of it, “seeing” the different alien species through the words of this detail oriented author! Trust me they go far beyond “little green men!” Cecil Castellucci did not stop at building a fascinating world and populating it with diversified characters, he took us inside their minds and hearts, particularly Tula’s, whose loss and “aloneness” can be painful at times. No wonder she finds trusting difficult! Well done with strong characters and vivid backgrounds, this fast-paced fantasy is definitely a keeper and a great addition to the YA Sci-fi genre! I received an ARC edition from Roaring Brook Press in exchange for my honest review.
Read this book and the sequel (Stone in the Sky) and the novella (Useless Wings)! They are my favorite YA SF series ever and that's saying a lot because I am a huge YA SF fan!
Tin Star grew on me. I'd just come off a contemporary, so at first, going into TS and reading about actual aliens (think Men in Black aliens... odd ones with odd descriptions) was a little weird. But Ms. Castellucci's set up was great and the main characters were three-dimensional. It wasn't long before I found myself sucked in and feeling as though the non-human ones were quite human. Can't wait to read book two and see what happens next!
I read this in two days! Its a great quick read not the best book ever but i loved every minute!
PSA: For all the Star Wars lovers out there, this book (and its sequel - STONE AND SKY) will provide a perfect distraction for you while you wait for the new movie to come out! So much love for TIN STAR. The world-building was (inter)stellar, the heroine both quirky and endearingly resourceful, the plot compelling, and the themes explored, thought provoking. When Tula Bane is abandoned on the Yertina Feray space station at the fringes of the galaxy, she soon finds that she's the only human on board. And humans? They're not a Major Species in the universe. In fact, they're not even a Minor Species. Tula is suddenly a nobody. With her enterprising spirit, and a little help from a Per and a Loor (two alien species), she carves out a niche for herself in the underguts of the station - as a delivery girl trading in goods and information in the black market. She just wants to survive long enough to get revenge on the man who beat and abandoned her. But when three other humans come on board, she is forced to rethink her situation: even if she gets her revenge, will she fit into the human world anymore? I loved the characters in this book. The character development was understated but lovely. At the opening of the book, Tula has had the foundations of her belief system (violently) shaken by the very person she and her people worshipped. Having been effectively brainwashed, she is awakening to the broader world for the first time, and much of the book explores her capacity and willingness to trust others in the aftermath of this experience. There isn't a singular "pivotal" moment for her, and that's part of what I like about it so much. She's a REAL human being. Beneath all her coping mechanisms and adaptation to new situations, she continues to struggle with trust right through to the end of the book. For me the truly outstanding thing about this book was the world-building. Although the majority of what we "see" is the Space Station, there were so many details about the broader political systems, and space-faring power plays, and the alien species on board. My particular favorite was the attention paid to the alien communication methods, particularly the non-verbal ones. I was just like WOW! All the things you don't think about in regards to inter-species communication. You'll see what I mean when you read it! She incorporated so many little details. I was so impressed and just ... fascinated. I hung on every sentence, just waiting to see what strange new thing would be explored next. I'll definitely be reading the next in this series, and will be following the author closely for future series!
I know it’s still pretty early in the year, but I’m already calling it. Tin Star is the most disappointing release of 2014. I was looking forward to reading what sounded like an intense space thriller with a dash of romance (kissing is important to me okay). Instead I got boring, boring and oh wait-more boring. I don’t think I’ve ever been more bored by a book in my life. I can seriously say that I’ve read textbooks I found more entertaining than this book. The writing was just so dry. Everything was stated so concisely, so matter-of-factly that it ripped the emotion out of whatever was being described. Even when Tula was talking about Brother Blue beating her and leaving her for dead I felt nothing. In retrospect I probably should have seen this as a warning and walked away while I still could, but I’m an optimist and kept on going, figuring it had to improve at some point. Spoiler alert-I was wrong. And okay, I get that the author was probably shooting for this lack of emotion on Tula’s part, to point out how isolated she is and how being abandoned has made her more like the aliens she’s surrounded by than her fellow humans, but it just didn’t work. The dullness of her personality resulted in total apathy on my part. I simply did not care about anything that happened to this character at any point in the book. The other characters were pretty much just as bland as Tula. The human’s that crash on to the space station are cliched as all get out, and the “romance” the author attempted between Tula and the human boys was the most ridiculous aspect of the story by far. Insta-love in the worst way possible. However I did greatly enjoy the alien characters, especially Tournour and Heckleck. They were my favorite characters by far and added enough to keep me reading through the worst of it. So why did I keep reading? Well the world-building was pretty fantastic and I was curious to see were Castellucci was going with this story. Overall the plot is focused on Tula needing to get off of the Yertina Feray Space Station, tack down Brother Blue and get her revenge, which is not as easy as it sounds. Apparently it’s pretty much impossible to get off of these space stations. In the long run though the pacing was just too slow and the plot lacked the cohesiveness to make it work. The ending was rushed and lacked the payoff that I was looking for. There really isn’t much else to say. I definitely will not be continuing with this series.
Tin Star by Cecil Castellucci is an addictive sci-fi novel I couldn't put down once I started it. It was full of action and intrigue and just a touch of romance, but the thing that made it so addictive was the fact that, for most of the book, I had no idea what was going on. I knew enough to understand things in the moment, but nothing about where the book was going to end up. Would Tula get her revenge on the man who left her for dead? Would she be betrayed by the people she saw as friends? Would she fall in love or move on to a new home? Nothing was what I thought it was, and, for me, that's what set Tin Star apart. Tula, the main character, is extremely naive for the entire course of the novel. She's a smart girl and she understands most aliens motivations, but she has no idea what's going on when it comes to humans. Or emotions, for that matter. She did what she needed to to survive, but it left her cold and detached. Fortunately, that didn't make her a less appealing main character, it just made me wish she'd wise up or, at least, show her true feelings to someone! Romantically, I really had no idea what was going on and I'm pretty sure Tula didn't either. Everyone romantically linked to Tula seemed... manipulative and untrustworthy in some way or another. They all wanted something from her and would go to any means to get it. I had such a deep mistrust for some of these characters I felt like I was waiting for some huge twist to come and show how they were all manipulating Tula, but it never came. Though I do still have my doubts about them. I believe for someone so cold, Tula trusts much too easily and it's only proven to cause her trouble so far. Tin Star was entertaining and mysterious enough to keep me reading late into the night and, when it was over, I was left craving more. With it's space station setting and eclectic mix of aliens, it's definitely my kind of sci-fi book. I love galactic political intrigue! Tin Star reminded me of a mix between Across the Universe and the video game Mass Effect. If you're a big fan of sci-fi I definitely recommend Tin Star!