Name: Hold Back the Stars
Author: Katie Khan
Number of Pages: 304 (Hardback)
Published: 26th January 2017 by Doubleday
Genre: Sci-fi, Romance
Carys and Max have ninety minutes of air left.
None of this was supposed to happen.
But perhaps this doesn’t need to be the end…
Adrift in space with nothing to hold on to but each other, Carys and Max can’t help but look back at the well-ordered world they have left behind – at the rules they couldn’t reconcile themselves to, and a life to which they might now never return.
For in a world where love is banned, what happens when you find it? – from Goodreads
What a setting!
Hold Back the Stars opens on Max and Carys adrift in the vast endlessness of space, having come adrift from their ship, the Laertes, after an accident. They have no way to get back to the ship, which is damaged anyway, and they soon discover that they have under-filled and leaking air canisters.
What does all this mean?
They’re stranded; no way back home, no hope of help, and in 90 minutes their air supply will be gone.
During that time they will hope for rescue, make attempts to save themselves, and spend their last moments finding comfort in having each other there so neither of them are alone.
The narrative moves between the perilous situation Max and Carys find themselves in, and their initial meeting in daily life. We see their relationship develop despite the rules of their society saying it shouldn’t happen.
It’s Earth, but not quite as we know it. Parts of the world have been decimated by war.
Europia is a utopian society, where emphasis is firmly on Individualism. Every action is completed ‘in your own name’. Such is the desire to keep this way of life going that people live in Rotation; moving around from place to place every few years, never settling, and leaving family behind as each person goes their own way, contributing their all to society.
Distractions or deep connections/romantic relationships are actively discouraged until people reach an age of at least 35. As Max’s friend Liu remarks, “freedom when you’re young, family when you’re old”.
That’s all well and good, but what happens if you do meet someone who’s more than just the usual transient crowd, but you cannot be together because you’re almost a decade too early to meet the Couples Rule?
And what happens when you decide to challenge convention because that person is worth the risk? Read this book to find out.
There’s a great tension that mounts as time steadily ticks down for Max and Carys, and I read on wanting them to beat the seemingly hopeless situation of being stranded in space. I really wanted both of them to make it out alive because they’re both likeable characters, who risked so much to be together.
I don’t tend to read much romance, but the combination here with a sci-fi/futuristic theme worked really well and I found myself immersed in the story and wanting to get back to it when real life took over for a while.
Hold Back the Stars was an enjoyable read and there was a Q & A section at the end in which the author mentions working on a new book, so I’ll look out for that in future.