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February 28, 2014

Book Notes - Cecil Castellucci "Tin Star"

Tin Star

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Kevin Brockmeier, George Pelecanos, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Myla Goldberg, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Cecil Castellucci's new young adult novel Tin Star is an intense science fiction drama with a unique teen female protagonist at its center.

Booklist wrote of the book:

"Castellucci forgoes complicated world building to focus on the rusty, junky environs of the space station, making this one of the few sci-fi books that can be accurately described as 'gritty.'"

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.

In her own words, here is Cecil Castellucci's Book Notes music playlist for her novel, Tin Star:


My new novel, Tin Star, takes place out in deep space on a space station in a galaxy where humans are mostly unknown and therefore disliked. Tula Bane is part of a group of Earth colonists called The Children of Earth led by the charismatic Brother Blue. Tula Bane sees something she shouldn't and Brother Blue, not pleased at being exposed, beats her and leaves her for dead on this backwater space station. Tula Bane is stuck. Earth won't take her back and there is no possibility of joining her family at the colony. When the book starts, she's 14 and in order to survive she must shed all of her humanness. She must barter with these very strange aliens in order to live. I imagine that there would be a lot of longing in her heart for music. Music that can float across space as it tries to reach for a place to land. In fact, we've been sending out music from Earth over radio waves for almost a century now. It's our biggest space export.

Who can tell why one song is more helpful when writing a novel than another? It's a strange alchemy. It's a feeling that you are trying to reach somewhere deep down inside of you, the characters that are trying to reach up and climb out of you. Music helps to pull them onto the page. Most of these songs are Tula's songs. They are slow and empty and they feel for her where she can't. They have to come of age for her since she cannot be normal human girl herself and live. Of course when three humans crash onto the space station, her carefully cultivated coolness starts to crack. Here is the playlist that I wrote the novel to, which I've arranged in a loose order of how things go down in the book.

"State of Emergency" Björk
This is how the story begins. Tula is left for dead on the space station. She has to decide if she's going to live or die.

"Wild Wild West" Turfola
A long time ago I was in a band called bite. I got kicked out because of the drama of being 22 (I started playing as Cecil Seaskull in my own band Nerdy Girl and you can listen to my musical styling's on iTunes, yo!) I never wanted to listen to bite or the band those girls formed after that, Turfola. But after years, we all reconciled and somehow I got a demo of Turfola songs. This song, "Wild, Wild West" perfectly sums up Tula and the idea of being stranded on the space station. The Yertina Feray is like the Wild West out there. This is the song I imagine is playing when Tula meets Heckleck, her mentor who teaches her what is what and how to survive.

"Havoc In Heaven" Jesca Hoop
Tula is going about her day, bartering with all the aliens.

"Have to Drive" Amanda Palmer
Tula's big struggle is to temper her humanness. She kind of has to become an alien. She's probably listening to this as she leans her head against the arboretum window and stares at the planet Quint below her.

"The Water" Feist
Realizing that she's really stuck in outer space. Realizing how much Brother Blue betrayed her. Sadness.

"Organeum" Girls in Hawaii
After a while, dealing with aliens is just her day-to-day reality. This is the song about the grind of life on the space station. She's holding it together. Everything seems fine. But it's not really.

"Never Want to See Your Face Again" Anna Waronker
I've always imagined that this song is about someone who did something pretty terrible to Anna and/or that dog! And I feel that it exactly sums up how Tula would feel about Brother Blue. It's the hope that someone who has done such harm and caused such trauma will eventually have to pay. I hear it especially in that line "The consequence for negligence is way bigger than me. In spite of you we came out safe but you'll be sorry. Believe me. It won't be pretty."

"Francis" Cœur de pirate
Tournour is an alien. He's the constable of the station. He's always there, a steady and quiet presence in Tula's life. I wouldn't say that they are friends. But there is a relationship there. It sticks out as different from all of the other songs that have more tracks to them or the next song that has some kind of muted piano pedal. I think Tournour is like that. He sticks out from the other aliens and Tula notices that.

"Navy Taxi" Kate Nash
When the humans land on the station, Tula probably repeats the part "This time it will be different" to herself over and over again.

"I See Red" Uh Huh Her
This is Tula trying to do her regular rounds of bartering on the station but being a little ruffled by having the three humans there. Something in her is cracking.

"Girl With One Eye" Florence & The Machine
Els is one of the humans who arrives on the station. You don't mess with Els. This song is as slippery as she is.

"Game Over" V V Brown
Sometimes there is a fight. Fists come out. You have to get tough.

"Ray of Light" Madonna
Reza is one of the humans that crashes onto the station and upsets Tula's methods for surviving. He's handsome, open and has a great sense of humor about his circumstances. He's got swagger. He's a ray of light to Tula.

"Love Out of Lust" Lykke Li
Caleb is the third human who crashes onto the station. He's a sensitive young man who was not made for the politics that have led him to being stuck on the station.

"Howl" Florence & The Machine
This is for that scene that's like a montage in a movie. Tula realizes what needs to get done and is planning everything out. And all the pieces and things that she's learned over the years are finally coming together.

"Hurricane Drunk" Florence & The Machine
But of course, planning is easier than executing. This song is Tula's despair and acceptance of the terrible things that must be done.

"Chalk" Buddy & Julie Miller
I don't want to spoil it, but at the end of the book when the things that happen the way that they happen, Tula probably stares out of that window at the stars and hums this.

"Night Windows" The Weakerthans
But of course, just when you think it's all for naught, and there is no hope at all. You see that there is always a window to climb through.


Cecil Castellucci and Tin Star links:

the author's website
the author's Wikipedia entry
excerpt from the book

Kirkus review
Publishers Weekly review

Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay y the author for Odd Duck
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay y the author for The Year of the Beasts


also at Largehearted Boy:

Book Notes (2012 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 - 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

Online "Best of 2013" Book Lists
2013 Year-End Online Music Lists

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
guest book reviews
Largehearted Word (weekly new book highlights)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
weekly music release lists


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