Grey and her younger sister, Rin, are surviving in the absence of their parents in a very hostile location on Earth. They make due and get by with the help of their elderly friend, Mrs. March. Running contraband to buy supplies, every day is a risk, and when government forces close in, the sisters are separated.
Jupiter Winds would qualify as a Space Western since it has a fun plot and ignores science as we know it. This particular story is a clean read, completely suitable for middle grade readers and above.
- Let me start with the best parts of the story—intriguing characters and strong pacing. The main character, Grey, and her sister, Rin, had a sweet relationship, taking care of one another in the absence of their parents.
- My favorite character was Mrs. March, an older mentor lady who can kick butt. What’s not to like?
- Highly imaginative setting.
- I abandon many books before I reach the end, but I’ll give credit to Darlington for keeping me involved through the last page, even though I found the ending to be anti-climactic. The author understands how to fade to black and open in another scene. In other words, she kept the story moving at a fine clip. This is a difficult skill to master.
- I would have liked to see more of Jet, since he had an interesting background. The author missed a stellar opportunity—see what I did there?—by leaving Jet out of the picture for the majority of the book.
- Mrs. March. But didn’t you say you liked her? Yes, but she is also very unbelievable, switching from a kindly old neighbor lady to a warrior spaceship captain in the blink of an eye. The author should have given the reader some hints that Mrs. March wasn’t what she seemed to be before turning her into Kathryn Janeway (Star Trek).
- The remainder of the characters were straight off the shelf, particularly General What’s-her-name, a Flat Stanley villainess who only lacked a mustache to twirl. She was mean, cruel, sadistic, one hundred percent evil, virtually indestructible, and completely unbelievable.
- Mom and Dad were cutout characters too; their only role was to provide motivation for the main character.
Science Fiction Lite
To be blunt, this novel is full of bad science. I could overlook this shortcoming if the story had been written before the space age, but these days, even young teens will have to suspend disbelief in a big way because Jupiter Winds revolves around the idea that we’ve misjudged Jupiter by writing it off as uninhabitable.
Jupiter is mostly hydrogen and helium under intense pressure. No spacecraft we could fashion on Earth would be able to withstand the gravitational pressure of the massive planet. That goes double for the frail human frame.
But in this story, humans don’t even require spacesuits to walk on the planet’s colorful sands or breathe its poisonous atmosphere. There are trees and animals native to the planet. The weather’s fine if you overlook the sudden onset of windstorms.
Another key point in the plot hinges on the idea that humans have discovered a shortcut to reach Jupiter in under a week. The very sketchy descriptions of the spaceships evoke crafts of the silent film era combined with silos like those used to house intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).
I gave this book 3 stars on Goodreads for its lack of scientific realism and because there are no half stars on Goodreads to ease the pain. However, 3 stars seems too severe if you are simply looking for a good time. For keeping me entertained, I would give Jupiter Winds 4 stars, so I have settled for 3.7 which you may round up to 4 stars if you like. Read it if you love Space Westerns. Avoid it if you’re a dedicated fan of hard science fiction.