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Literature / To Sleep in a Sea of Stars

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To Sleep in a Sea of Stars is a science fiction fantasy novel by Christopher Paolini. Notably, it's Paolini's first novel not set in the universe of the Inheritance Cycle and his first novel aimed at adults. It was published on September 15th 2020.

While on a seemingly routine research mission on an uncolonized world, xenobiologist Kira Narávez discovers an alien relic that will dramatically change both her own life and the course of galactic history. With Earth and its colonies threatened, Kira may be humankind's only hope.

You can read excerpts from the first eight chapters here.

Contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Alliterative Title: The title has a triple alliteration (To Sleep in a Sea of Stars).
  • Arc Number: Sevens and multiples thereof are all over the text — a fact that is lampshaded by the author in the Afterword.
  • Blood from the Mouth: Kira and Neghar both vomit up blood after coming into the contact with the alien relic.
  • Body Horror: The alien lifeform that Kira encounters on Adra almost completely covers her body with a black substance like a suit.
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  • Brain–Computer Interface: Both information and entertainment are delivered via implants, which Kira sorely misses when the Soft Blade's interface with her destroys them. Hers are limited, but those with more money can get ones that deliver a "full-sense recording" experience, with touch, taste and smell.
  • Doorstopper: The first published edition is 880 pages long (although, a significant chunk of that is made up by multiple appendices).
  • Flowers of Romance: Alan spent weeks growing and tending Kira's favorite flowers, Midnight Constellations, so he could surprise her with them before they leave Adrasteia.
  • The Future: The book is set in 2257 (237 years from the year the book was published), with humanity having advanced enough to develop reliable interstellar travel and establish numerous colonies around the galaxy.
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  • Long-Distance Relationship: Kira is in one with Alan, due to them often being assigned to different parts of the galaxy for research missions. They get tired of not being able to see each other for months on end and decide they'll apply to be colonists so they can stay together, especially when Alan proposes to Kira.
  • Sequel Hook: Obviously, The Reveal at the end that there are seven more copies of the Maw hiding out in the parts unknown is a major sequel hook, but there are also more subtle unresolved plot points like what exactly the Wranaui refer to as a "Ripple" — not only does the only friendly Jelly Kira asks about it clam up completely, but even the Fictionary at the end of the book simply states "record not found" for this word.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Multiple entities in the story are named after characters and corporations from the Alien series.
    • When she first ends up on the Wallfish, Kira runs into a refugee named "Inarë" — a term used for a mysterious species in Inheritance Cycle. The Afterword explicitly confirms that she "is who you think she is" and references "Letter from Jeod", which suggests that Angela, a character from Inheritance, may be an Inarë.
  • Sleeper Starship: People get put into "cryo" when traveling to different planets or other celestial bodies, although starships are still implied to be pretty fast considering they're traveling over light years.
  • So Happy Together: Kira and Alan are deeply in love, they just got engaged and are making plans to settle down as colonists and begin a new life together. Then the alien life form that latched onto Kira kills him just a few chapters in.
  • Title Drop: Happens in the very last sentence of the novel, as the recently-ascended Kira enters hibernation before embarking on a long space journey in pursuit of the Maw clones.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: It turns out, Kira's own actions during her escape from Extenuating Circumstances directly spawned the Maw into existence and accelerated the Wranaui's plans to launch their invasion. While fighting a Jelly combat form, she accidentally caused an explosion that ejected the remains of the Jelly, a human interrogator, and, most importantly, a small bit of the Soft Blade into space. Unable to reconnect with its main body, the Soft Blade fragment instead fused together all organic matter it could find (read: human and Jelly remains) and attempted to resuscitate it, creating the Maw. The Wranaui, meanwhile, were fine with Kira obtaining the Soft Blade (if only because only a small faction knew about its existence), but when the Maw attacked a Wranaui star system, they traced its origins back to humanity and interpreted it as a proactive attack by the humans.


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