Science-fiction is a huge weakness of mine, especially if the stories are on faraway planets with unique civilizations, crazy gadgets, and creative types of world building. I know that you aren’t supposed to judge a book by its cover, but with The Other Side of Gravity by Shelly Crane it is really difficult not to. There is a young lady who’s floating up off the cratered ground with a backdrop of stars and what looks to be an exquisitely bright moon. Did I mention that the whole scene is flipped to appear upside down, in what I imagine as an attempt to match the title? The arraying hues of blue and silver are extremely eye-catching. After checking out the synopsis, I was sold on needing to read it. However, I’m so upset to admit that I was immensely disappointed and wholly unsatisfied.
Sophelia is a runaway slave who escapes her terrible environment and oppressor as a stowaway on a ship, where she encounters a young man named Maxton. Maxton happens to be a black-market trader, who ends up turning her in for reward money…twice. Plotting occurs and the two end up being romantic interests. These two individuals reside on a planet that is located on the opposite spectrum of Earth, but the same distance from the sun. It’s an excruciatingly dystopian and totalitarian culture where the civilians must pay for everything from oxygen to gravity, even a license to have sex. If you’re found cursing, BOOM, fees out the yin-yang. (Please note this is my own personal version of the synopsis and not at all like the one I read from the publisher).
The story started very strong, garnering my full-attention and desire to press onwards. As Sophelia bickers with her oppressor, you can see that she has a lot of sass, presenting herself as a rather strong young woman who’s a force to be reckoned with. Her plight, while difficult, appears to have built her into an adept lady that was tired of being walked all over. It’s been a few months since I encountered a female protagonist in young adult that was decidedly not a whiny little girl waiting to be rescued. I liked it. But as soon as she meets Maxton, a very handsome and somewhat charming boy her own age, all of that vigor seems to dissipate into thin air. What happened to my badass girl with a backbone? This was flaw number one: the maceration of an empowering female figure to something as absurd as a “cute boy.” Very quickly, she became that girl that needed to be rescued, and it sucked.
I will be the first to admit that I don’t read a lot of novels with romance. My number one reason for that is because I find the whole concept of “instalove,” or love that is entirely based on physical appearances to be unrealistic, unattractive, and a poor and overused literary device. Stories that take the time to build up chemistry and a natural tension between two individuals, with genuine and relatable (in regards to the fiction’s setting, plot, etc.) relationship obstacles are extremely engrossing. Instalove theatrics are utterly irritating, for me as a reader. Maxton and Sophelia are victims of such a fate. They both see each other and think very highly about one another’s physical attributes. Every time Maxton’s perspective kicks in, the vast majority of the chapter is spent on describing how “gorgeous” the “redhead” slave girl is. Really? Are there no other words to describe a pretty lady? Sophelia is painfully similar in her perspectives as well. There is so much science and world-building that I really wanted to experience, since that’s what drew me in, but instead I was left reading chapter after chapter about these two individuals sending each other mixed signals, which kicked up insecurities, and then how they went about fixing those misunderstandings. A thorough washing later, it’s repeated. So, undoubtedly the second flaw is the instantaneous blossoming of love that’s wholeheartedly based on looks, which then proceeds to be emphasized time and time again.
One of the main reasons that I wanted to read The Other Side of Gravity was because the futuristic civilization sounded really fricking fascinating. Oxygen is considered to be an extremely precious commodity, so much so that you had to pay for it, along with gravity, in the form of little pills. Everyone has the ability to pay for things (as well as get paid) by a nifty little device on their wrists with a screen that pops up, unless of course if you’re a slave, like Sophelia. These are a couple of the sciencey facets of the fiction that I desperately desired some elaboration on. Yet, we learn virtually nothing about any of this. Whatever tidbits of information we do receive about the technology is given from a third-party stance as characters interact with one another. This includes the descriptions of setting as well as explanations about how the world is run, politically or otherwise. Close quarters sections, like the inside of a house or a store, were vivid enough for me to imagine, but when we stepped outside into a much larger scene, the details became fewer and vaguer. People have to pay for everything but there is never an explanation as to why people have to pay for things that would be considered a natural right, like breathing. It left me feeling empty and entirely displeased with the promise for the “science” portion of this distinctly science-fiction novel, and then not getting any of it.
The Other Side of Gravity had a delightfully promising premise, and quite a lot of potential to become an amazing feat of young adult science-fiction, however. Uninspiring, foolishly quixotic romance with shallow characters that only wilted instead of growing, and a disappointing disregard for attention to detail in relation to world building leaves this story as a frustrating waste of time. If the synopsis that I read about this book flat out told me that it was a novel all about the love of two young people with a vague backdrop of science-fiction, I either would have passed on the title, or have gone into it a bit more prepared for the deficient material offered; one pill out of five.