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Jenna Starborn Turtleback – Apr 2002


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  • Turtleback
  • Publisher: Demco Media (April 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0606292330
  • ISBN-13: 978-0606292337
  • Product Dimensions: 3.2 x 15.9 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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You would think that if someone commissioned your conception, paid for your gestation, and claimed you immediately after your harvesting, she would love you with her whole heart; but you would be wrong. Read the first page
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Neal Reynolds on 7 April 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The best thing about this book is the fact that it led me to read JANE EYRE so I could see exactly what the author was doing.
By the way, although this so far is the only book by Sharon Shinn that I've read, I acknowledge her writing skill. The fault doesn't lie at all in writing skills, but in sticking too closely to the Jane Eyre story. There are differences. The girl's home and school experiences are somewhat condensed so as to conform more to today's literary style.
And the book comes quite to life in one scene where Jenna is drawn into the space simulation game which isn't quite parallel to the charade scene in Jane Eyre. In fact, if the remainder of Jenna Starborn's story had been allowed to build more from that scene, it would've been a much better story.
As it is, this book is merely an oddity and an interesting, but failed, experiment. The gothic overtones fight too much with the futuristic setting.
I don't tell you not to read this, because there may well be those that will be suitably fascinated by the author's attempt. However, I suspect that it holds only rarified interest value, and that you'd be better off reading the original, if you haven't, and also Ms. Shinn's other novels which sound more successful.
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By Paul Tapner TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 30 Jun 2006
Format: Paperback
I've never read Jane Eyre.

I have read Jenna Starborn, which takes the story of the former and puts it into a science fictional setting.

This book has appealing and well drawn characters, a great setting, and a lovely romance.

So if Jane Eyre is as good as this, then I'm going to have to read it as soon as possible!
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By ex nihilo on 19 Nov 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
this book is an absolute treat. If you love Jane Eyre -so do I- you will feel the fun in foreseeing the events in the plot, but wondering how the author will adapt them to this sf setting. If you love science fiction, you will feel interested in the multilayered society that the author decpicts, where the caste one person is born into is totally decissive of this person's fate. I don't feel that any literary work is untouchable or sacred, as long as the new versions respect the themes that the original author wanted to convey. This version unquestionably does. On the other hand, I think the original, beloved Jane Eyre is also a wonderful version of the ancient tale of Beauty and the Beast. This is, of course, not the only remake that we know of Jane Eyre; I suppose everybody remembers Rebecca so...what's all the fuss about? Jane Eyre is such a good story, it conveys its themes so well, that it is immortal and can be adapted to any period of time ...including the far future of a sf novel. And only an author who loved this story and knew it in depth could attempt to do what Sharon Shinn has done here. Thank you, Ms.Shinn, for proving to me in this nice way that Jane Eyre will never die and that its message will always be good!
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7 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 3 May 2002
Format: Paperback
Sharon Shinn won me over with her brilliant 'Samaria Trilogy' and kept me as a fan with the 'Wrapt in Crystal'. With her latest release, 'Jenna Starborn' I was disappoint to find a romance novel hiding behind the curtain of science fiction.
I found the characters stiff and uninspiring. It is hard to feel any emotionally involvement in the character's plight.
I can only hope that this is not a sign of things to come with Ms Shinn's work. Here's a fan hoping that the talent she displayed with the 'Samaria Trilogy' will be visible in her future work
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 36 reviews
25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
Familiar in Good and Bad Ways 13 May 2002
By Tasha B. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I love Sharon Shinn, and I loved JANE EYRE when I read it in high school, so I was certain that I would love this book! And, for the most part, I did enjoy it, but I have to agree with some of the other reviewers here that it isn't Shinn's best work. In fact, I honestly find myself wondering what possessed her to write JENNA STARBORN at all.
The novel starts out very intruigingly, with Jenna as a "manufactured" human mistreated by the human family she lives with. In this part of the novel, there are some pretty strong resemblances to the Bronte novel, but also a nice twist to make the story fresh and original.
Once Jenna goes to Fieldstar, however, all attempts at any stretch of originality, creativity, or imagination are almost entirely demolished. As I said before, I loved JANE EYRE; but if I want to read JANE EYRE, I'll read Bronte. I was expecting and anticipating Shinn to put her own twist on the basic premise of the Bronte classic--young woman falls in love with brooding employer, who turns out to be hiding a terrible secret--but I was disappointed in the way she followed J.E. so incredibly closely--she hardly even bothered to change the characters' names!
Plus, Shinn is a good writer, but not as good as Charlotte Bronte was, especially at this type of fiction. Mr. Rochester/Ravenbeck talks as if his life is the climatic scene of a really bad late Victorian melodrama, and I couldn't possibly take him seriously. On the whole, in face, the characterizations were not very good, even for Jenna's character. I felt as if the book just skimmed the surface of her life and I still didn't really know her by the end, or even if I would care to know her. She seems more of a passive observer of her life than even Jane Eyre was.
Basically, JENNA STARBORN was more like reading a scene-by-scene copy of JANE EYRE, rather than a "twist" on the original story, which makes me wonder why Shinn even bothered writing it. If you like JANE EYRE, you will like this book, no doubt about it; but as a work standing on its own it was disappointing.
19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
It's all been done before...and done better the first time 28 July 2002
By Jennifer Mo - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I couldn't finish this book.
I skimmed the first two thirds of it, and then skipped to the last fifteen pages. And yet I have an extremely good idea of what happened in the interim: that is, nothing significantly different from the plot of Jane Eyre. Yawn.
When I first heard that Sharon Shinn was writing a retelling of Jane Eyre in a sort of space opera setting, I was quite enthused, being a fan of Sharon Shinn, Jane Eyre (moderately, anyway), and space opera. In previous books, Shinn has managed to make even things I usually avoid in books, i.e. religion and romance-oriented plots, appealing. Unfortunately, Jenna Starborn isn't so much a retelling of Jane Eyre as it is a translation of it into a futuristic setting. Some passages between Roch--Ravenbeck and Jenna, are lifted virtually verbatim from Charlotte Bronte's gothic romance. Apart from the SF setting, and a few of Jenna's biographical details, nothing much is different. (Well, there *is* that awkward insertion of a sort of feminist Transcendentalist religion.) And some of the similarities, such as the use of the phrase, "Dear Reeder," come across as grossly self indulgent and not at all clever or witty.
Following Jane Eyre's plot too closely does absolutely terrible things to characterization. Essentially, Jenna is an incredibly bland futuristic Jane Eyre, with more interesting origins and a brilliance at science. Her story isn't particularly interesting or remotely suspenseful because every detail is already known to someone who has read Jane Eyre. But-- even worse-- she's not half as convincing a character as Jane Eyre. Jenna's not dislikable, but she's *boring.* Sharon Shinn is usually excellent at characterization, but confined by the motivations and actions of Bronte's characters, she fails to create any three dimensional characters of her own. No one escapes being a pale and unsatisfactory imitation of one of Bronte's characters.
The setting, too, compared to that of her previous books, is rather underdeveloped. It's the usual generic space opera setting, with some indication of space travel and improved medical technology and an unfamiliar religious order. Each of these has been explored better in other Shinn books; here, they all get shoved into the background of the plot and the plights of the characters, which would be all right except that those aspects are singularly uncompelling.
I was initially puzzled why the lack of original plot and therefore suspense bothered me so much; fairy tale retellings, after all, make up one of my favorite subgenres, and no one can deny that those are derivative. But I suspect that it's because good fairy tale retellings expand, explore, and add subtlety and meaning; Jenna Starborn does nothing for Jane Eyre. Even my favorite scene in Jane Eyre-- that of the fortuneteller-- in Jenna Starborn becomes quite forgettable. Everything that I found overly melodramatic and sappy in Jane Eyre is even more cringeworthy in Jenna Starborn. The original's faults are exaggerated, its virtues diminished.
The one thing that did genuinely amuse me was the inclusion of a character named Janet Ayerson (the name!), who is the tutor to Ravenbeck's young ward. Janet embarks upon a course that will be instantly familiar to any Pride and Prejudice fan, given the deliberate similarity of certain passages. In such a derivative Jane Eyre retelling, the inclusion of this allusion was pleasantly surprising. If the entire book had been full of sly literary references from a variety of sources, I would have enjoyed it a good deal more.
Released about the same time, Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair is a much, much more rewarding novel that also deals with Jane Eyre (and pet dodos, Martin Chuzzlewit, Henry James, and the Shakespeare authorship question). Jenna Starborn should be read only by those patient enough to sit through-- yes, a Jane Eyre clone with spaceships-- or those who haven't read Jane Eyre at all. I hope Sharon Shinn will return to more original subject matter; I don't think I could read it if she chose to 'retell' Pride and Prejudice similarly!
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Eyre Erred 25 Aug 2005
By Snark Shark - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Charlotte Bronte doesn't deserve this.

I have no doubt that Sharon Shinn meant well; I've read interviews where she's talked about how she adores period authors, and has read "Jane Eyre" so many times she knows certain passages by heart. But her attempt to 'futurize' that amazing novel is a well-meant failure: awkward, confusing, and overall, uninteresting.

Jenna Starborn is, of course, Shinn's heroine. Jenna has no real family: she was created from raw genetic material for a woman known as Rently (the infamous Aunt Reed), who later rejected Jenna in favor of her own son and never formally adopted the girl. This meant that Jenna was only a half-citizen, or "half-cit," in a society where citizenship status (in levels that go from Five (lowest) to One (highest), with half-cits the lowest of low) determines one's ability to own property, hold down a job, etc.

So Jenna is unlucky enough to enter into a hierarchal society with strict separations between the classes, where she herself is barely considered a person. She escapes her aunt's and makes a place for herself at Lora Tech (Lowood, anyone?), a prestigious trade school, and becomes a nuclear technician. After graduating she is eager for work, and accepts a position at Thorrastone (Thornfeild) Park, employed by a Mr. Everett Ravenbeck (Edward Rochester). The trouble begins when sparks begin to fly between Jenna and Ravenbeck, who is a Level One Citizen and therefore part of the universal elite.

The truth is, I would have enjoyed this book much, much better if it hadn't tried so desperately to recreate the events, characters, and language of the original book SO CLOSELY -- every event and interaction, even whole passages, are preserved as much as possible. But "Jane Eyre" is the kind of book where every piece fits snugly together to create a wonderful whole; Shinn's machinations with adapting the book to a different setting were jarring, especially when her altering of themes and characterizations was just enough to create total confusion. It would have been better if Shinn had simply stuck to the central idea -- smart girl vies for love in a hostile world -- and taken it from there.

Instead, we have an adaptation that tries to be clever and inventive, but fails miserably. For instance, Shinn's world is not fleshed-out enough to convince us that Jenna is being truly radical. The idea of upper-level citizens marrying a half-cit seems, perhaps, but not unheard of. (Shinn expressly mentions early on that one can ascend levels of citizenship though several means -- one of them being marriage.) It's nowhere near the romantic impossibility presented in "Jane Eyre": of Rochester, a man of wealth and breeding, aligning himself with a plain, penniless governess with absolutely no family to speak of. And if you take away those extremes, you abandon much of the conflict and tension that made the original so absorbing.

And Jenna is nowhere near the interesting heroine that Jane was, with the spiritual, emotional, and moral struggles which pervaded "Jane Eyre." Jenna comes into her own faith effortlessly: she reads a PanEquist pamphlet while still at Rently's (how did that woman get it?), and is immediately converted to this pseudo-pagan equality-for-everyone-even-flowers Goddess religion. So when Everett asks her to live with him, unmarried, her only reason for saying no is reputation and honor. Which doesn't make much sense, either: why would Jenna care so deeply about the values of a society that she knows to be deeply flawed? And there's nothing in her religion that speaks against the idea.

Again, very different, and very boring, compared to the original, where the man Jane loved -- the man who loved HER, when she thought she would be incapable of inspiring love -- is so desperate to keep her he tempts her with the deepest moral and spiritual sin. Doesn't look good for Ravenbeck, either. Rochester was willing to take himself and Jane to hell to stay by her side; Ravenbeck won't even "shut down" his cyborg of a wife.

Again, it's not that the characters of the book are awful and boring by themselves; it's just that, in comparison to the original, they SEEM that way. And Shinn has so closely followed the original text that comparisons are inevitable.

I suppose the final conclusion is: don't mess with the classics. (There's a reason they're classic.) And Ms. Shinn is too talented to be copying others' works.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Interesting But Not Fundamentally Engaging 3 Oct 2003
By Jennifer Juday - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback
If you have not read "Jane Eyre" in a while, you may enjoy this book as a reminder of that experience. I did. I loved "Jane Eyre" and my reading interests include science fiction, fantasy and romance, so I am likely an ideal reader for "Jenna Starborn." I was interested but never profoundly moved. I finished "Jenna Starborn" and would not rate it as a waste of time, but found it more engaging as an academic exercise than as a novel-reading experience.
Sharon Shinn must truly love "Jane Eyre" to have recreated it this way, but this version never quite comes to life. I think some of the most interesting elements have to do with the very stratified society she envisions. "Jane Eyre" was set in such a world, and there could indeed be a version again. I'd have liked to see a book or story that pursued that idea further, even at the expense of dropping the original premise of recreating the Jane Eyre plot in the future.
If you have never read "Jane Eyre," this book will likely frustrate you, as many elements are included in order to create the parallel rather than because this world and these characters demand them.
Fans of hard core science fiction fans should not look to "Jenna Starborn" for science-based speculation. The science is minimal and the book has little enthusiasm for it.
This was my first outing with this author, and I suspect she has done better. Flawed though this book was, I enjoyed myself enough that I will certainly try her again!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
aggravating 12 May 2002
By M. Cookson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I haven't read Jane Eyre, so I can't review this book from that point of view, although a few of my friends told me that this book follows the plot pretty closely. I can say that I found the two main characters, Jenna and Everett, to be fairly aggravating. Jenna is smart as far as math and science go, but she's an idiot when it comes to people. Even though she likes her job and Everett's ward, she makes hardly any argument when Everett talks about her giving all that up once they're married. I don't understand it. And I can't help but dislike Everett for the way he acts through a great deal of the book. I think the author crippled herself trying to follow Jane Eyre, because I know she can do a better job than this.
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