By The Stars (Embracing Entropy book 1) by Jessica Marie Baumgartner (ebook review).

After years of destruction and chaos, Earth is being evacuated, with the remaining human population transported to a new world by a friendly race of alien beings. Allie is one of those on the transport ship, cautiously optimistic that the new world will give her family a chance to not only survive but to thrive. As she tries to adjust to life with the Cih’lnarians and taking care of her two daughters, Maddi and Gwen, her husband Adam is flying patrol in his tiny spaceship. The journey is long and dangerous, but in the face of so much change and so many obstacles, Allie and her travelling companions might finally discover what it really means to be human.


Written from the perspective of Allie, ‘By the Stars’ by Jessica Marie Baumgartner is the first in the ‘Embracing Entropy’ series of books. At its most basic level, this is a road trip novel that just happens to be set in space. We have different cultures colliding on a journey of self-discovery, overcoming prejudices and obstacles as they travel through space.

The story is fairly basic but, even in the confined setting of the spaceship, there’s a lot of potential to explore different ideas. As it’s written from a first person perspective, we get a very personal view of the aliens and it’s quite interesting to follow Allie and her warring feelings towards them. At first, viewing them as completely different, Allie, often with help from her children, slowly starts to see similarities between humans and Cih’lnarians and the friendship that develops between her and Rnakoi’b is really nice at times. It’s also interesting to see the contrasts between their friendship and the friendship between their children.

Unfortunately, despite the potential here, I felt the book was let down by some really clunky writing. It felt extremely stilted at times, and I think the sense of character was lost in several places. One of the sentences that really stuck out for me was the following:

“She eagerly shakes her head in the affirmative.”

I actually stopped and re-read that one a couple of times. This is a mother talking (we’re in the first person, remember) about her daughter and it just seemed as though the author had looked through the thesaurus to try and make the sentence more interesting and failed! That was an example that really stuck out but, throughout the book, there are clumsy moments both in writing and in plot. Several ideas that could have been subtly addressed ended up being laboriously explained and it took away a lot of the magic. Part of the fun of reading things like this is allowing your mind to wander and consider all the ‘what if’ questions that arise but, when the answers are always given in such a teachery way, that’s seriously curtailed.

Ultimately, the writing style got in the way of the story on this occasion. I’ll be interested to see how Baumgartner’s style develops over the course of the series. As I said before, there’s definitely potential here, but I think she’s going to need to step it up a notch to keep me interested.

Vinca Russell

October 2015

(pub: European Geeks Publishing. 135 page ebook. Price: £ 1.99 (UK). ASIN: B0128Z4FLE. ISBN: 978-1-943755-03-5)

check out website: www.europeangeeks.com 

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