Review & Contest: The Highest Frontier by Joan Slonczewski

Ready for a challenging read that pays dividends in the end? Today, I’m looking at a YA-science fiction-dystopian-futuristic hybrid that will kind of make your head explode but then pulls it back together again like you’re Humpty Dumpty: The Highest Frontier, by Joan Slonczewski. Want to win a copy? Read on…

THE OFFICIAL BLURB: One of the most respected writers of hard SF, it has been more than ten years since Joan Slonczewski’s last novel. Now she returns with a spectacular tour de force of the college of the future, in orbit. Jennifer Ramos Kennedy, a girl from a rich and politically influential family (a distant relation descended from the famous Kennedy clan), whose twin brother has died in an accident and left her bereft, is about to enter her freshman year at Frontera College.
       Frontera is an exciting school built with media money, and a bit from tribal casinos too, dedicated to educating the best and brightest of this future world. We accompany Jenny as she proceeds through her early days at school, encountering surprises and wonders and some unpleasant problems. The Earth is altered by global warming, and an invasive alien species called ultraphytes threatens the surviving ecosystem. Jenny is being raised for great things, but while she’s in school she just wants to do her homework, go on a few dates, and get by. The world that Jenny is living in is one of the most fascinating and creative in contemporary SF, and the problems Jenny faces will involve every reader, young and old.

MY THOUGHTS: So, on the surface this is a coming-of-age tale as Jenny heads off to college. Of course campus is in space, and you get there by climbing towers of anthrax, and there’s the inevitable alien roommate, and potential for space station disaster. And of course everyone’s out to get you. You know, college stuff.

            Joan Slonczewski is a new author for me, so my only expectation (read: fear) was that, as a microbiologist, she’d be writing such hard science I couldn’t get into it. Fortunately, she doesn’t neglect the character-building aspects of her story. Jenny is likeable and sympathetic as our heroine.

            But the worldbuilding is where The Highest Frontier shines for me. There’s the whole ecological disaster that’s made big swaths of Earth uninhabitable (and the habitable parts are downright challenging). There are alien lifeforms that seem bent on eliminating those pesky humans. The “taxplayers” and casinos pay for government programs, and the kids even have a Quidditch equivalent in Slanball.

            This isn’t a fast read, it’s certainly not a mindless escape of a read, but it is a satisfying read, especially if you like complex dystopian worlds with a few aliens thrown in.

THE GIVEAWAY: Want to win a copy of The Highest Frontier? Tell me your favorite alien book or movie. I’m a big fan of “Independence Day”! You know the routine: +1 for comment, +1 for blog follow, +1 for Twitter follow @Suzanne_Johnson, and +1 for Tweet or Retweet or a like on Facebook at

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About Suzanne Johnson

Author of urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and suspense. As Suzanne Johnson, she is the author of the Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series (Royal Street; River Road: Elysian Fields, Pirate's Alley, Belle Chasse, Frenchmen Street (March 2018). Writing as Susannah Sandlin, she is the author of the Penton Legacy series (Redemption; Absolution; Omega; Storm Force; Allegiance; ILLUMINATION); The Collectors series (Lovely, Dark, and Deep; Deadly, Calm, and Cold); and the Wilds of the Bayou series (Wild Man's Curse; Black Diamond).

26 thoughts on “Review & Contest: The Highest Frontier by Joan Slonczewski

  1. I like Independence Day too but my favorite “It Came From Outerspace” movie is the original version of The Blob.

    +1 comment
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    sgiden at

  2. Favorite alien book is Crisis on Doona by Anne McCaffrey and Jody Lynn Nye – but Independence Day is an awesome movie. Bill Pullman’s cheesey, “Today is our Independence Day” gives me shivers, despite the cheese factor.
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  3. Hands down, The Fifth Element is my favorite alien movie. It was so campy & just plain entertaining!

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    jennhutson3128 at yahoo dot com

  4. E.T.! What a cutie and it wasn’t scary but heartwarming. I don’t read a lot of dystopian and futuristic book so thank you for the chance.

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    +1 twitter follow (FieryNa)


  5. I love Alien vs Predator. It is awesome! I also liked the movie I am Number Four.
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  6. I can’t just name one favorite alien movie/TV series and these are probably going to sound strange to you but I truly love them

    I would have to say ET for the movie and Alf for a TV series !

    See I told you they are unusual.

    Thanks for the giveaway. I had never heard of the author but your review has whetted my appetite to read the book.

    Carol T

    buddytho {at} gmail DOT com

    +1 for comment
    +1 I Follow via GFC – buddyt

  7. Thanks for another amazing giveaway!

    And another tough question… so many good alien books/movies. Independence Day is good fun. The Fifth Element, even better. I can’t believe that I can’t think of a good book to add.

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    +1 GFC follower Spaz
    +1 Twitter follower SPAZinOL

  8. Hmm. Favorite movie would have to be ET, I think. Although I did enjoy Independence day. And honestly, sometimes I just like to watch Men in Black 🙂


    already following everything 🙂