Creative Fire (Ruby’s Song #1)
by Brenda Cooper

Pyr, November 2012
Paperback, 400 pages
Science Fiction, Young Adult

Nothing can match the power of a single voice… Ruby Martin expects to spend her days repairing robots and avoiding the dangerous peacekeeping forces that roam the corridors of the generation ship The Creative Fire. Her best friend has been raped and killed, the ship is falling apart around her, and no one she knows has any real information about what’s happening to them. The social structure on board Creative Fire is rigidly divided, with Ruby and her friends on the bottom, but she dreams of freedom and equality.

Everything changes when a ship-wide accident reveals secrets she and her friends had only imagined. Now, she has to fight for her freedom and the freedom of everyone she loves. Her enemies are numerous, well armed, and much more knowledgeable than Ruby. Her weapons are a fabulous voice, a quick mind, a deep stubbornness, and a passion for freedom. And complicating it all—an unreliable A.I. and an enigmatic man she met – and kissed – exactly once—and one of them may hold the key to her success. If Ruby can’t transform from a rebellious teen to the leader of a revolution, she and all her friends will lose all say in their future, and nothing will ever change.


This story is set on the ship, Creative Fire, that has been on a 400 year journey through space and on its way back to Adiamo, the home planet. Life on certain parts of the ship is very harsh and austere. There is a very rigid politic and social structure with ‘greys’ doing the manual jobs, ‘reds’ are the police and ‘blues’….. well I wasn’t really sure what they were exactly other than those ultimately in power.  Everyone is segregated and its extremely difficult to move from your social class regardless of your talents. The greys are effectively the lower class and are exposed to brutality by the reds who are the police force on the ship. An accident on board the aging ship brings the story’s teenage heroine, Ruby to the rescue of a blue named Fox. Despite their relatively short time together Ruby is drawn to Fox and yearns to find a better life where everyone is treated equally. Her drive to make a difference is heightened when she finds her best friend Nona who has been brutally raped and murdered by two reds. Despite this being a pivotal point for Ruby she reflects more on her meeting with Fox then the death of her best friend which I thought was very odd.

Ruby is a talented singer and starts to sew the seeds of revolution through song and by handing out beaded necklaces which become a symbol for the resistance. Its not long before she becomes noticed by both the reds and the blues for her efforts to spur on change. She is eventually rescued by Fox and moves with him onto his part of the ship. Fox is the space ship version of Simon Cowell and grooms Ruby to for a career as a recording artist on board the ship.  I was not clear whether Cooper intended that Ruby was going to create unity through music or it was used to inspire the greys to rebel. Ruby and Fox quickly start a sexual relationship and I was never completely sure who was using who or whether Ruby was using sex so that Fox would keep her in his part of the ship.

The book is split between Ruby and her friend Oner’s story. Oner is separated from Ruby and the rest of his friends and sent to work in the worst job possible on the ship – sanitation. He meets even more brutality than before as the greys themselves ensure that no one gets out of line. It is there that Oner meets Joel who will later lead the resistance from the outer decks of the ship. Eventually, a battle ensues and grey try to take over the ship, people die and its time for Ruby, Oner and Joel to make some big decisions.

I was really looking forward to reading this book. Look at the front cover!  Its gorgeous and combined with the summary on the back cover I was so sure this book was going to be a winner. I don’t think I could have been more disappointed and I had to force myself it to finish it. Ruby was in no way a credible heroine. As I write this I am struggling to think of one thing that Ruby did that would have made her a realistic leader of the resistance. Her friend Oner, was much more of the hero yet the story revolved around Ruby instead. I found Ruby to be gullible, naive and uninspiring. I also had a slight problem with the fact that Ruby jumped into bed with two guys out of what seemed  more out of gratitude than anything else and she was only supposed to be sixteen or seventeen. While The Creative Fire wasn’t really purported to be YA the fact that the main character was a teenager and having sex made me a bit uncomfortable. Perhaps I read this book too closely to Wool which had a similar overall premise of fighting for freedom and equality and that is why I didn’t enjoy it. This story could have really held its own had it not been for a the portrayal of Ruby who I thought  was too weak to be convincing as a leader of the resistance.


The Creative Fire breaks the saying ‘don’t judge the book by the cover’ as the cover is so much more interesting than the characters inside. I had high hopes but I found it a disappointment as I didn’t find the main character Ruby, as a believable heroine or leader of the resistance. While Ruby is still in her teens this book is not suitable for young readers.


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A displaced Canadian living in the UK who when not reading is often found trawling through GoodReads looking for something to read or buying another book on Amazon. [Melanie no longer reviews for the site.]

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