Author: Alison Goodman
Publication Date: 7/15/99
Blurb (GR): Seventeen-year-old Joss is a rebel, and a student of time travel at the prestigious Centre for Neo-Historical Studies. This year, for the first time, the Centre has an alien student, Mavkel, from the planet Choria. And Mavkel has chosen Joss, of all people, as his roommate and study partner. Then Mavkel gets sick. Joss quickly realizes that his will to live is draining away. The only way she can help Mavkel is by breaking the Centre's strictest rules . . . and that means going back in time to change history.
I’m always on the lookout for a fun space-related story. Singing the Dogstar Blues isn’t set in space but there is a very futuristic feel to it and ALIENS so it definitely hit my sweet spot. If you are wondering if this book reads at all like Goodman’s other book Eon, the answer, at least for me, is absolutely not. I enjoyed Eon but the pacing was off and I wasn’t especially attached to any of the characters. That’s not the case here. Joss Aaronson attends a prestigious time-jumping school and holds one of 12 coveted spots in the program for her year. She is a comp, which basically means that her mother used a donor to have her and comps are looked down on as genetically manipulated because people can use up to even 5 or 6 donors to create the child of their choice. She is snarky, sassy, and unlike Eon/a, it doesn’t take her eras to figure out what is going on around her. Thank goodness for that.
Overall, the book has a bit of a campy and adventurous feel. The plot primarily revolves around Joss and her new school partner, Mavkel, the first alien to be admitted. As expected, there are enemies and allies in the school administration and amongst the students but Joss and Mavkel hold this entire story on their backs and they succeed in doing so. I couldn’t picture what Mavkel actually looked like but it didn’t hinder the character development. His personality came through even with a language barrier and extensive cultural differences. He and Joss bond over music and that is where the title of the book comes from.
There are hints that this was Goodman’s first novel—the writing definitely favors utility rather than description, for instance. Since this is what I prefer in my sci-fi, I was more than happy with the style. And Ms. Goodman actually surprised me with a plot twist near the end. (I laughed out loud at the Petri dish scene) I wish this book started a series so we could find out how Joss and Mavkel’s partnership continued to develop during their school years. As it is, I guess I will just have to hope that Alison Goodman writes some more sci-fi one of these days.