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Posted February 10, 2012
I have fallen in love with this book, and already miss its adventure. The writing style flows like water, painting pictures that seem to float off the page. The main characters are interesting and deeply drawn, serious issues are bridged, suspense is held, and the book unravels to a suitably satisfactory and less than expected end.
A wide spectrum of readers should be as affected as I am, from Young Adult to “Seen-it-All” Veterans of a thousand books. We see the story through the eyes of a slowly maturing young girl who starts life in the deeps of autistic isolation, and follow her as she develops her savant skills in language and learns to interact with her peers. We are on a space-ship that is physically divided between a great number of variously handicapped children, living dormitory lives, and their controllers, the BGs, who “run” the ship. The novel seems to me to so well describe existence amongst the variously handicapped and marginalised, with their sometimes useful gifts. I am sure the insights and deep connections we feel with this bunch of “rejected humanity” would have felt less strong, if it were not for the fact that the authors have a particular closeness to autistic spectrum handicaps themselves.
This book is not just a must for those with an interest in science fiction, but should also be on the reading list of those who aren’t naturally sympathetic to that genre. As a writer of speculative fiction I started reading with high expectations, otherwise I would not have chosen this one from a pile of hundreds. It was one of the best totally undirected reading decisions I have even made.
There are a lot of social and philosophical issues covered in this story, from prejudice to individual rights, from the needs of society to equality of opportunity and the future of mankind. There are also many of the more familiar scientific and technological ingredients that are the grist of SF writing. All are blended into a plausible adventure that takes place on a cheaply produced tin can of a spacecraft, run with variously obsolete equipment, as it powers towards a predetermined destination. This is a destiny that needs avoiding if our unlikely crew and passengers are going to have much of a future. A thick fog of expectant failure grabs at us as we follow the story of this unlikely bunch of discordant friends, and get glimpses of their tenuous, unidentified supporters. So many varying emotional strands often weaken, but sometimes strengthen, any hope of survival. We have love, hate, paranoia, fear, pain, inferiority complexes, totalitarian venom, distrust and blind support all rearing their heads in a threatening to be tragic soup. And of course, with having so many classical elements of science fiction, even artificial “intelligence” raises its electronic head.
I really hope there is a sequel to this fine novel, as I really can’t abide the idea of missing out on the future adventures of Karen Anderson and Zachary Drazil.
Posted September 25, 2011
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