Last week I observed that it’s been quite a winter for science fiction, and today we share two more SF recommendations. Both feature an alternate history aspect and siblings on the run.
In Daniel Price’s The Flight of the Silvers, six people watch as our world is destroyed before being whisked away to an alternate America. Upon arrival they gain the ability to manipulate time. Classic SF tropes combined with the pacing of a thriller? Teens are the perfect audience for this one.
The Flight of the Silvers is the first in a series of as yet undetermined length. (The author’s website offers FAQs about the Silvers series.) Book two, The Song of the Orphans, is in progress.
In Robert Charles Wilson’s Burning Paradise, our history has been changed through the interference of an extra-terrestrial hive-mind. Wilson’s protagonists are part of a small group of humans who know about the manipulation. They are exposed at the beginning of the novel and go on the run. Nonstop action ensues.
Reading Gary K. Wolfe’s analysis of Burning Paradise on Locus Online, this sentence struck me, “The central moral question of the novel is also a familiar one from dystopian and anti-utopian fiction: is such peace and prosperity a reasonable trade for the loss of free will and self-determination?” Teen readers of dystopian fiction (and they are legion) have been facing variations of this question in novels from Delirium to Unwind to The Knife of Never Letting Go. Burning Paradise adds an extraterrestrial entity pacifying humans in order to cultivate them for their own purposes. I can imagine readers who enjoyed The 5th Wave last year getting excited about this one.
PRICE, Daniel. The Flight of the Silvers. 608p. Blue Rider: Penguin Books (USA). Feb. 2014. Tr $28.95. ISBN 9780399164989; ebk. ISBN 9781101620045.
On October 5, 1912, a temporic blast destroyed half of New York City and changed everything we understand about time. Welcome to AltAmerica, existing in an alternate reality created by the blast. Here, instead of moving in one direction beyond human control, time can be manipulated, even made solid. Six people—the Silvers—are pulled from ordinary America and deposited into AltAmerica, each now having chronokinetic abilities. Their time-twisting talents, such as re-creating past events with sound and light or moving objects forward or backward in age, are commonplace. Where average AltAmericans use appliances to maneuver time, the Silvers have the power within them. Because of this, they are targeted by government agencies, a mysterious group that wants them dead, and a time-traveler with a grudge. As they struggle to sort out their relationships and their new abilities, all while trying to outrun their pursuers, they become an intriguingly dysfunctional family: two squabbling sisters; two teens, one a shy girl who becomes a leader, the other a boy genius with Aspergerlike tendencies; a cartoonist who was pulled from his booth at Comic-Con; and an alcoholic former child prodigy. This fast paced thriller’s vibrant descriptions of the culture of AltAmerica and the new abilities, crimes, and language related to manipulating time create a credible world that will excite science-fiction fans while still appealing to a wide range of readers. Although this is the first book in a trilogy, the story is both solid and satisfying.–Carla Riemer, Claremont Middle School, CA
WILSON, Robert Charles. Burning Paradise. 320p. Tor. Nov. 2013. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9780765332615.
Seven years ago, Cassie’s parents were killed for their involvement with the Correspondence Society, a secret group that has discovered the existence of an ancient, alien organism permeating the Earth’s atmosphere. This organism, coined a “hypercolony,” encircles the globe, forming a radiosphere that subtly alters human communication. So it is that in Cassie’s world, the nation is celebrating the anniversary of Armistice Day 1914, which marks 100 years of a peace that has only been achieved through the interference of the hypercolony. Now, however, remaining members of the Corresponence Society are facing a new attack. Cassie and her 12-year-old brother, Thomas, flee to the nearest Society member for protection, who turns out to be 21-year-old Leo Beck, disagreeable son of the Society’s patron, and Leo’s girlfriend, Beth. The foursome, all children of Society members, is left to race cross-country, seeking refuge as they dodge detection from the hypercolony’s humanlike agents, the simulacra. Readers of Wilson’s previous novels, including his Hugo award-winning Spin (Tor, 2005), will again appreciate his skill at saturating everyday human interactions with terrible paranoia. From the outside, anyone could be human…or they could be a simulacrum. The distinguishing factor is that the simulacra bleed out a ghastly green fluid that smells like decayed plants. The only sure-fire way to tell who is human, then, is to make them bleed, often with tragic consequences. While the story includes chapters told from the vantage point of adult characters, Cassie’s tale forms the core. Despite enduring painful betrayals, she is ultimately most vested in preserving the future of humanity. A slam dunk recommendation for scifi fans. —Diane Colson, Nashville Public Library, TN