Review of The Creative Fire by Brenda Cooper and The Diamond Deep, the second book in the Ruby’s Song duology. Creative Fire is a young adult generation ship story about oppression and resistance.
The the Ruby’s Song duology
My review of The Creative Fire by Brenda Cooper
The Creative Fire is a young adult story about revolution on a generation ship. I really enjoyed The Creative Fire. It is interesting, political, strong and very well paced. The stakes throughout the book are extremely high, which makes even the quiet periods tense interludes instead of truly slow sections.
The story is inspired by the story of the Argentine revolutionary Evita Perón who was also an singer.
My review from 2014 of The Creative Fire by Brenda Cooper
Title: The Creative Fire
Author: Brenda Cooper
Series: Ruby’s Song, book 1
Genre: Science fiction, generation ship, young adult
Themes: oppression, resistance, revolution, the power of music, coming of age
Content warning: Threats of rape
The Creative Fire is a book about a revolution. It is a book about growing up. It is a book about wanting and achieving change in an oppressive society. It is a book about the power of song.
I really loved this book! I enjoyed it enough to order the second book when I was just 30 % though it. I have to know what happens next. The stakes throughout the book are extremely high, which makes even the quiet periods tense interludes instead of truly slow sections.
The protagonist: Ruby
Ruby is a revolutionary. To quote the blurb: “Her weapons are a fabulous voice, a quick mind, and a deep stubbornness.”
Ruby is a very passionate protagonist. Both in her work, her work for the revolution and in her love live. She is also a quite calculating person. She is also a very complex character – multi-faceted and talented but also selfish at times. Her best friend is in love with her throughout the book and she hurt him by keeping him as a friend but never as anything more. And she knows that she does that. At times in the story she get swept along by the story, not she is never content with being swept along and does her damnedest to take her faith into her own hands again. This what makes her the right kind of strong female character in my mind. She is capable, takes control of her life and she gets to be flawed. As a reader I didn’t like her all the time, but she always had my sympathy, which in my mind is more important.
I really liked the world building in the generationship. It got slipped in along the way little by little, which is how I like it. I hate prologs with a passion, they make me want to not want to start reading the book. I like discovering the book with the protagonist. We discover the world Ruby live in little by little though Ruby’s eyes, which is a trick I always like and why I think we see so many farm hands as protagonists in epic fantasy. There is a good excuse for them not to know a lot about the world.
I have to speak a little about gender roles. In a ship where everyone has the same jobs and the woman works just as backbreaking jobs as the men, I wonder about the patriarchal structure that is set up. Why are all the people in power men? There are a few female authority figures but they play a smaller role in the story than the men. This is not as a critic of the authors choices, but I wonder why she made them.
Ruby is very calculating about her sexuality. Her mother actively uses sex to achieve goals. Ruby despise that in her mother, however she have sex with some powerful men in her life for some very calculating reasons. She is also quite physically attracted to these men, it has to be said. Her sexual partners and potential partners (other than her friend) are all older, sometimes very much older than her. She is sixteen at the onset of the book and I think she is seventeen in the end of the book. So the fact that the men are older, and quite a lot older is an interesting choice. She never has a sexual encounter with anyone at her own age.
Throughout the book, rape and the threat of rape is used as a means of power. Ruby is thankfully never raped but she is threatened with rape at least once, so there is a good reason for the content warning I put on this. There is never any graphic descriptions of rape however. This use of rape as a means of power again makes me wonder at the gender politics of the ship.
I can see that people on goodreads are shelving this as a young adult book. I am not sure I would do that and I am interested in how this is marketed. I think I could easily have read this as a teenager, but it is quite blunt at times. People do get raped and die in the book. It will not cuddle you.
Revolution and music
Music and songs are a huge part of the book and it is one of those books where I wish that someone had put music to the songs. That would be wonderful! Songs and symbols can have real power to change the world, IF they are in sync with the political world around them. This is a huge theme in the book and a very interesting one. And a theme I like when it is explored in science fiction and fantasy.
The book is very much a book about a revolution, about how to achieve change. About the fact that you can’t do it alone. That you need other people. People from all parts of society to be successful. It is also about the fear of change both from the establishment about from the oppressed people them self. I think this is a book that could be used in a class teaching social change.
The overall review
Though this book is part of a series, it reads as a standalone book with a very satisfying ending. So if you don’t want to get sucked into a long series, you can just read the first one and not feel like you have to keep going.
To sum up. I really enjoyed the book. It was interesting, political, strong and very well paced. The writing never got in the way of the story.
Lets just quickly talk about the cover. I love that they put Ruby in coveralls, however the big gun has no place on the cover. Ruby is carrying a small side arms once in the story and I do not remember her using it. So making her look like Ellen Ripley is setting the wrong expectations for the book. This is a book about a revolution, not about fighting bigass robots.
The stats: The Creative Fire
Published: 2012 & 2013 by Pyr
Length: 351 pages & 441 pages
Read: April 05 to 08, 2014 & August 31, 2014
Author: female, white, USA
The protagonists: Ruby Martin, female, straight, teenager, singer, robot repair, able-bodied.
My review of The Diamond Deep by Brenda Cooper
Reaching their goal did not bring them to paradise.
Compared to The Creative Fire, The Diamond Deep didn’t pack the same emotional punch for me.
The treatment of a ultra capitalist society felt a bit too on the nose for me. However I did very much enjoy the book and I liked the addicts dealing with the complexity of navigating a society that you do not fully understand
This review was originally posted: April 11, 2014 & August 31, 2014. Updated and edited July 1, 2023