Shattered Sky (Star Shards Trilogy, Book 3) by Neal Shusterman
List Price: $25.95 Hardcover: 416 pages
Publisher: Tor; ISBN: 0312855087; (June 2002) 
Review by Ernest Lilley
Check out this book at: Amazon US

I'm sorry I didn't catch the first two installments of this trilogy when they came out. In fact, having read Shattered Sky, I'm sorry I haven't caught a lot of Neal Shusterman's work. Just because the cover is laden with superlatives from folks like Orson Scott Card doesn't mean that the contents are going to be good, does it? (see below for preceding titles)

Actually, it probably does, and in this case, it certainly does.

In the first volume, Scorpion Shards, which was written as a juvenile, six children were born at the same moment as a supernova, and somehow the two events were linked. I suspect someone was pulling their superstrings. The children were both deformed and gifted, reviled and feted, and by the time they finished growing to early adulthood, they had each found and harnesses a unique power. In the second volume, Thief of Souls, they defeated a demonic alien on earth and sent him back to the extradimensional hell he came from. They also brought down the Hoover Dam, and were winnowed down to a remaining three. Whether the other half of the "Star Shards" are dead or lost is left loose at the books beginning, where much of the action is reviewed in the guise of interrogation...a clever device actually,

The story resumes with Dillon Cole, the one who  brought down the dam, making the Colorado river flow backwards and killing 400 followers of the Shards in the process. Dillon Cole, who has the power to heal through touch, to snap handcuffs with a twitch of his wrist. In captivity. For as long as it suits him.

Thanks to a brilliant Israelli industrialist named Elon Tessic, Dillon is a bit more trapped than he expected though, and in a nuclear plant in Hesperia, Michigan that never went online there's a project who's goals make the fabled Area 51 seem modest. A project that General Bussard is in charge of. To tame a miracle, or at least to contain it. In the end though, Tessic turns out to be the one who really wants to wield Cole as a tool, but will it be increase his already great power in the world, or to do a massive to mitzvah?

Maddy Hass is a newly minted US Army Leutenant. Having just graduated from West Point at the top of her class, she may not have her pick of assignments, but she can angle for them, and the news, or lack of it, of a new top secret facility in Michigan provides an irresitable lure. Soon she's doing more exciting duty than she could ever have imagined, spoon feeding a man in an iron mask, or actually a titanium one, that the world thinks perished in the flood he made. Though they may escape together in the end, and though they may fall in love, one is human an one is more. Can they ever be equals?

Dillon Cole is the center of the Star Shards, the hub around which they join to create really tremendous power. If you've read the Lensman series by E. E. "Doc" Smith, you'll note a striking similarity to his Children of the Lens, in which Kimbal Kinnison provides the focus and the power for his sisters to join thier psychic forces too, in order to create a weapon to expel an evil alien force from another dimension. I'm not saying that this is derivative, not in any way. The core theme has some resonance, that's all. Where Smith's evolved humans were all pure of heart by definition, Neal Shusterman has taken deliberately flawed teenagers and turned them loose with unimaginable powers.

There's an extradimensional menace all right. One that claims to have been masquerading as everything humanity has ever considered holy, conning them along to grow fat and tasty, ready for their souls to provide food for the "Gods."

Dillon and the others aren't fooled about Godhood though. They've been gods themselves, or faced the question of what they really are and decided it wasn't that. In fact, it was Dillon's efforts to convince the world they were human that brought about the disaster at the end of the previous book. The problem is that they are more than human, no matter how they may try to think otherwise, and in this final episode, they have to come to grips with that and each other in order to stop the final alien invasion. If they can let go of their baser humanity to do it.

One minor problem stands in their way. In order for the Star Shards to be at their peak, they need to fuse into one unit, made up of all six pieces...and two of the shards are dead, one lost in the other dimension from which the menace comes.

As their powers grow, they realize that death many not be the final barrier it once was, not for them, and they race to reunite the broken shards, while the forces working against them seek to scatter them to the corners of the Earth. Only a deal with the devil will give them a chance at salvation for humanity.

The Shattered Sky takes a lot of serious questions about our place in the universe, the challenge of dealing with the needs of self and community, good and evil, and the relationship between humanity and divinity, adds a lot of action and character development and tumbles it all out in a fast paced thriller. At the end, the author points out that though we may be deluded about our place in the universe, that doesn't mean we don't have one.

Sometimes it's a bit too fast paced for the questions it's dealing with, but at least they get asked, and Neal Shusterman has wrapped up an exciting trilogy with a satisfying conclusion...though one that leaves room for him to take the next step and see what mankind might become.

The Star Shards

Scorpion Shards: Book One of the Star Shards Trilogy 
From Booklist: Gr. 8^-12. There are so many outsiders in YA fiction, it's time for a novel about the loneliness of being normal. But this isn't it, not by a long shot. No, Shusterman, author of The Eye of Kid Midas (1992), has thrown together six archetypal outsiders--the fat kid, the pimply kid, the sex symbol, the scaredy-cat, and the kid who loves to wreck things--and sent them on, yes, yet another perilous journey of self-discovery. There's one big difference here: these kids' inner demons are real, and they're eating them from the inside; unless they confront and exorcise the monsters, the jig is up. The horror novel comes of age? Well, not quite. With all the symbols, metaphors, archetypes--so much meaning clanging around in this book, it's hard for the characters to draw a breath. Still, the horror story is suspenseful and often compelling; if young readers can ignore the heavy-handed message--no easy task here, even for meaning-allergic teens--they might enjoy the tale, especially the scene where the kid who wrecks things demolishes a whole town.

Thief of Souls : Book Two of the Star Shards Trilogy
from Amazon.com:
In Thief of Souls, the survivors--now numbering only five--will confront a more insidious but equally terrifying foe: The Bringer. Imprisoned for thousands of years by the ancient gods, The Bringer bides his time. When finally he breaks free and invades the world through a breach in the universe, only one power exists that can stop him from taking his ultimate revenge: the Star Shards. The Bringer must destroy them. But how? Since the five are too powerful to confront and defeat in open battle, The Bringer preys on their vulnerabilities in an attempt to turn one upon the other--like hungry, snarling wolves. Only these wolves have the power to destroy the world." check out this title at Amazon.com

2002 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu