Is it horror? Science fiction? Romance? Spiritual guidance disguised as a YA novel? The Starlight Crystal is all of these and is altogether a strange read. I’ve read this book four times now and I still don’t really understand the plot. Anything involving time travel and meeting / killing your past or future selves does tend to confuse me.
I first read the story in 2002 when I was very into teen horror and borrowed all the Pike books from the library. Despite the scary cover, it’s not an especially frightening tale (see also: Remember Me). I suppose that Pike was an auto-buy author for some fans after his success with horror stories and that when his writing became weirder and of a more spiritual tone, the publisher didn’t mind. The science fiction element is obviously influenced by Star Trek (the author must be a fan, judging by his pseudonym).
Narrated by a teenage girl, Paige Christian, the story is set in the future. Paige is due to leave on a space mission which will observe two centuries of change on Earth. Just before she goes, she falls in love and has to face not seeing her soulmate, Tem, again. As the spaceship accelerates, time will pass quickly and Tem will soon be dead. Then events turn very odd, involving superior alien races, clones, reincarnation, journeying to the end of time and a higher power, the Creation.
The story is very much a sketch, rather than a satisfying novel. So much action and so many ideas are packed into less than 200 pages that there is little character development or exploration of emotions. From this perspective, the book is a missed opportunity. However, the brevity of the story, the epic themes and unusual narrator combine into a compelling reading experience for me. There’s something about it which I can’t quite grasp but is extraordinary and ensures that I’m certain to re-read again.
First published in 1996.