SPSFC Quarterfinalist Review: Bypass the Stars by Kate Sheeran Swed

As our SPSFC team finishes reading our ten quarterfinalists out of our first round allotment, I will be posting review roundups and official scores. As you read our thoughts on these ten books, keep in mind that we have a variety of tastes on this team, and a low score does not necessarily indicate a bad book. One or two (or even all four!) judges bouncing hard off a book can tank a score and keep it from advancing in this competition, but that doesn’t mean the same book might not be perfect for another reader.

Today, we’ll look at Bypass the Stars, Kate Sheeran Swed’s tale of a teenage genius mounting a rescue mission after her parents suffer disaster on the interplanetary transport whose workings have been kept a closely guarded secret, even from their only daughter.

Jay’s Review and Rating

Bypass the Stars offers excellent plotting that never goes too far between the key moments that keep the reader invested. The big reveals are foreshadowed well enough to feel earned but with a sufficiently light touch to still feel surprising—a difficult balance that goes a long way toward a satisfying conclusion. And, while I find the character work more inconsistent, there are some excellent moments on the character side as well, particularly in the handling of the lead.

Jay has rated Bypass the Stars 7/10. For more, see his full review.

Esme’s Review and Rating

While I connected to the world it was difficult for me to get into the characters which is a big downside for someone who prefers character driven books. I wasn’t able to invest in their relationships with each other for one reason or another. I found the prose to be serviceable as far as the narrative but I wasn’t in love with the dialogue. The overall pacing was well done, but overall it just didn’t hold my attention like some of the other entries.

Esme has rated Bypass the Stars 6/10.

Lilyn’s Review and Rating

Technically competent and well paced. The world-building was interesting. The characters were not. I wasn’t able to connect with either of the main characters and the relationship between Jord and Frankie often set my teeth on edge. Characters don’t have to be likable but they do have to be sympathetic at least to some degree and I just couldn’t connect with either of them. (Which was a bit odd considering I could identify reasons why I should have felt for them in both characters, but simply did not.)

Lilyn has rated Bypass the Stars 5/10.

Bill’s Review and Rating

Bypass the Stars is a somewhat formulaic sci-fi book involving space exploration and alien lives. I don’t want to sell it short, there are some twists and surprises, but much of the framing will likely seem familiar. Frankie is the teen-age heir to the family that invented space travel, met the aliens, and became the richest people on Earth by keeping it all secret and sharing as little as necessary. She grows up trying desperately to impress her parents, who give her the cold shoulder at every opportunity. The parents get lost in space and when Frankie goes on her own rescue mission there is action, adventure, some technology goofing, some good characters, and interstellar romping. There is also a deepening story between Frankie and her parents that really helped tie the work together in my opinion. There was one last twist I expected at the very end and the author skipped over, thus pulling no punches with regards to morality. Well done.

Bill has rated Bypass the Stars 7/10.

Official Scores

Jay 7
Esme 6
Lilyn 5
Bill 7
Team 6.5



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