Skye Object 3270a by Linda Nagata
It’s a book that can be classified as middle grade or YA — personally I’d call it YA because a) it’s about teenagers and b) I don’t really understand where the boundaries for middle grade are supposed to be anyway. On the other hand, the main character is 14, a little younger than standard for YA and the romantic story line isn’t super serious as in many YA books.
Skye Object 3270a is set on and above a distant planet in the far distant future. It’s about Skye, who was found in an escape capsule when she was a baby. No one knows where she came from or how long she was in hibernation in the capsule before being discovered. She is named after the astronomical designation for her capsule before they realised it was a capsule (which I thought was a bit mean of the civilisation, but at least no one teases her for it).
Skye and her friends are ados, adolescents in a world where people live for several centuries (perhaps indefinitely, but the planet they live above (up a space elevator) hasn’t been settled for that long and the oldest people were just under 300 I think). People are considered ados and aren’t taken seriously until they’re 100 and become Real people. Interestingly, this sees 14 year olds lumped into the same demographic as 99 year old and they’re all treated more or less the same. Which is to say, sort of taken seriously but also dismissed as a bit silly and reckless.
And reckless is a pretty good description of Skye and her friends. From bungee jumping down the space elevator shaft the maximum allowed distance (4.3 km) to breaking many rules for a variety of reasons, there are lots of entertaining shenanigans in this book. There’s also a more serious underlying mission to find out where Skye really came from.
What really struck me about Skye Object 3270a is the depth of the world building. From the space elevator to the freefall scenes to the nanobots and biological oddities, Nataga’s world was not only physically plausible but rich and detailed. An exemplary example of SF worldbuilding. Apparently, Skye Object 3270a is set in the same world (but different characters) as Nagata’s Deception Well (which is indeed the name of the planet in Skye Object 3270a) and a few other stand alone novels. I bought the Locus Award-winning The Bohr Maker (also in that universe but set earlier in time) a while ago and it has just jumped up a few places in my virtual TBR pile.
I highly recommend Skye Object 3270a to lovers of quality science fiction and adventure. Although it is written for younger readers, I think it can be enjoyed by all (even if older readers, like myself, shake their heads at the dangerous stunts the characters pull).
5 / 5 stars