'Sky Without Stars' Authors, Who Based YA Sci-Fi Novel off 'Les Miserables,' to Read at Rediscovered Books in Boise 

click to enlarge Joanne Rendell (left) and Jessica Brody (right) will visit Rediscovered Books in Boise to read from and sign copies of their YA sci-fi novel, Sky Without Stars.

Phil Treble/Brian Braff

Joanne Rendell (left) and Jessica Brody (right) will visit Rediscovered Books in Boise to read from and sign copies of their YA sci-fi novel, Sky Without Stars.

The Renaissance in children's literature continues with Sky Without Stars, a sci-fi spin on Victor Hugo's classic, Les Miserables.

"It has completely matured. It used to be teen-centric and teen-themed, and as adults started reading YA, the genre matured naturally," said co-author Jessica Brody, who wrote the book in conjunction with Joanne Rendell. "This book is definitely a crossover, and we really wanted it to be a crossover. There are Les Mis fans of every age, and we wanted to tell a story that would surpass those genre boundaries."

Sky Without Stars (Simon Pulse 2019) isn't a plug-and-play retelling of Les Miserables. Rather, it draws inspiration from the 19th-century classic, peppering its story about a thief, a military officer and a librarian caught up in a rebellion against rigid class and social orders on an interstellar French outpost with "Easter eggs" from its source material. The book hits stands on Tuesday, March 26, and a day later, Brody and Rendell will visit Rediscovered Books in Boise, where they'll conduct a reading and sign copies.

click to enlarge BILLELIS/SIMON PULSE
  • Billelis/Simon Pulse
Clocking in at more than 575 pages, Sky Without Stars looks like a brick, but its driving plot and interesting characters will keep readers of all ages engaged. The authors said it's the first book in a trilogy, which they call System Divine. They're already working on the second volume.

Brody and Rendell worked on the book from different sides of the U.S.—Brody from Vancouver, Washington, and Rendell from New York City. They've been close for years, but it wasn't until one visit, during a dinner, that they discovered their shared passion for the French Revolution. Brody had pitched a YA novel to her publisher—"Les Mis in space"—but Rendell, who has a Ph.D in literature, brought to the project a fresh set of tools for turning Brody's idea into a book.

"It was a meeting of minds. Even though we grew up on different continents [Rendell is British], we had very similar childhoods. This was the ideal project," Rendell said.

There have been numerous adaptations of Les Miserables over the years—a Broadway play, several films and a television show—but the story sells itself. That's also the case for Sky Without Stars, and no prior knowledge is required to dive into its world.

"Even though it is inspired by Les Mis, we want it to be for everyone, and we didn't want to exclude people from the experience," said Brody. "We wanted to create an epic sci-fi adventure story."
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