Molly Fyde and the Parsona Rescue by Hugh Howey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I can say with no reservations that this was a fantastic book. Let me be honest and admit that I'm not a big science fiction reader. I'm not sure I will ever be a wholesale science fiction fan in every form. But this book, well, it has convinced me that I can enjoy a good 'pure' science fiction book.
While Molly Fyde and the Parsona Rescue is a young adult book, it really doesn't feel like one. What I mean by that is, the writing is such that you never felt things are being dummed down in the false belief that a younger reader cannot handle an intelligent storyline. I would never assume that young adult fiction should be any different, and I'm glad that Mr. Howey did not make that assumption, either. As I read this story, I was impressed with his ability to tell this story in such a manner that words flow smoothly, your interest is engaged, but you are neither lost in streaming lines of technobabble, or pseudointelligent pomposity, or left feeling bored. In some ways, he compared favorably to Mr. Ray Bradbury, who wrote science fantasy back when hardly anything was common knowledge of space. Using his incredible imagination, his focus was always on telling a story, and the words used always contributed to this goal. That's how I felt about Mr. Howey's efforts.
Science fiction is a genre I often shy away from, because I am not very good with technical jargon. I find it hard to visualize highly technological concepts in my head when I read. So I tend to get bored with books that are written with heavy emphasis on these things. I am a very visual person, so that's an integral part of reading for me. When I read a book, it plays like a movie in my head. And the best books, they are like really good movies. Such was the case with this book. It was like a very good, intelligent, but fun science fiction movie with a hefty dose of adventure.
What I really liked about this novel, was that Mr. Howey infused this story with elements of philosophy and an awareness of ethical issues. And there are some very weighty ones in this book. Yet, he managed not to overload the story until it became dull and pretentious. He never resorted to shoveling an agenda down my throat as I read. There were moments that caused me genuine emotional pain, as I experienced the anguish that Molly felt, seeing what she did, and what she inadvertently took part in, and how she struggled with her conscience over decisions that she made, and those that were taken out of her hands by necessity, or through the actions of others. I'm by no means a science fiction connoisseur, but it's my understanding that science fiction is a genre that does probe into the questions of how technology can be for the advancement of humanity, but at the same time, it can cause destruction when used inappropriately. That issue arises in this book with a civilization of beings that are so intelligent, that they have come close to wiping themselves out, and would do the same to the rest of the galaxies they encountered. My brain was able to take this in, and I could really see both sides of the issue. But this was done without me feeling like I was being lectured to, or getting bored. That is the hallmark of good fiction to me, that I read a good story, but it gives me something to think about. I'm grateful that Mr. Howey did so with this story.
Molly is a genuinely likeable heroine. There were no moments in this story where she annoyed me or lost credibility with me. She was very human, and she seemed like a sixteen year old girl on the cusp on womanhood. But she dealt with some situations that were truly harrowing, ones that truly required intense strength of character from her. There were moments where I feared she was put in the role of looking to her male supporting character, Cole, a young man that she attended Naval Flight School with, as the stronger, more capable person, and I was prepared to be disappointed about that, not comfortable about what kind of message that might send to young girls reading this novel. However, further reading revealed that this was not an attempt to undermine the capability of Molly, or show that she could not be independent and in charge of her destiny, but to show that at times even the strong need to lean on, and to follow others. That's real life to this reader.
As for the adventure quotient of this novel, it was very satisfactorily high. Yet, the action was paced so well, that the moments of introspection and character development could be savored equally well. And, as I said earlier, I could easily visualize most of the action sequences. Any question marks about the equipment that I might have had were cleared away either through my imagination, or by further reading.
The worldbuilding in this novel was excellent. I had no problem picturing a future Earth that wasn't overly different, and seeing the other worlds through the narrative. The depiction of the different alien civilizations was distinct, and was done with a respect that didn't pander to bigotry or racial insensitivities. Although the various alien civilizations had their particularities, it was clear that stereotypes were not being established or relied upon. As a person who is sensitive to the depiction of people in a way that isn't stereotypical or racially insensitive, that was very important to me.
The cast of secondary characters managed to become very important to me. Cole became my shelter, a shoulder to lean on, and a boon companion, as I read this story and saw him take this harrowing journey along with Molly. Along the way, they meet friend and foe, and you feel their anguish and fears when the realization is made that not everyone can be trusted. Although this was Molly's story, and you never doubt her importance, Cole is also an intregral part of this novel, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
This book is perfectly suitable for mid-to-older teens, but I would advise readers that there is quite a bit of violence, and some disturbing events do occur. However, Mr. Howey does an excellent job of showing the consequences of violence, and how it affects the participants. And the violent scenes are not done in any way that is offensive or gratuitous.
Molly Fyde and the Parsona Rescue took me on an incredible journey. It kept me in suspense, made me laugh, made me cry, and gave me a sense of wonder at the beauty of the universe. I was in awe that humans might be able to travel through galaxies and meet life on other planets. I felt a sense of excitement reading this story, that has yet to leave me. But it also gave me something to think about. Like Molly, we humans tend to dream big, and life will knock some of the idealism out of us. But that's not the end of the road. It's just another turn that we take.
I can't wait to read the next in this series.
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