Monday, 20 August 2012
2788. Only the handicapped live on Earth. While everyone else portals between worlds, 18-year-old Jarra is among the one in a thousand people born with an immune system that cannot survive on other planets. Sent to Earth at birth to save her life, she has been abandoned by her parents. She can’t travel to other worlds, but she can watch their vids, and she knows all the jokes they make. She’s an ‘ape’, a ‘throwback’, but this is one ape girl who won’t give in.
Jarra invents a fake background for herself – as a normal child of Military parents – and joins a class of norms that is on Earth to excavate the ruins of the old cities. When an ancient skyscraper collapses, burying another research team, Jarra’s role in their rescue puts her in the spotlight. No hiding at back of class now. To make life more complicated, she finds herself falling in love with one of her classmates – a norm from another planet. Somehow, she has to keep the deception going.
A freak solar storm strikes the atmosphere, and the class is ordered to portal off-world for safety – no problem for a real child of military parents, but fatal for Jarra. The storm is so bad that the crews of the orbiting solar arrays have to escape to planet below: the first landing from space in 600 years. And one is on collision course with their shelter.
The premise is so interesting! It follows the story of Jarra, a 'Handicapped' girl, which basically means that, although the human race now occupies multiple planets, Jarra is one of the unlucky few, born with an immune system that cannot cope on any other planet, but Earth. And when Earth has been all but abandoned, this can certainly feel more like an unjustified prison sentence, than a life - being trapped on Earth, and labelled an 'ape', by those who are able to portal to other worlds.
Jarra, however, is no ordinary 'ape'. She sets out to prove to the 'exos' (those able to travel between planets), that she is just as good as them - if not better - by applying to an off-world university, and tricking the other students into believing that she's one of them. However, these 'immoral', and apparently cruel exos are not quite what she expected to encounter, so now she faces a whole new set of problems.
I just loved the twists and turns that this novel took, as Jarra went on her personal journey. I didn't know where the story was going to lead me, once the premise was introduced, so it was almost entirely unpredictable, and definitely exciting, from the word go.
There was one revelation that I did see coming, but that may have been down to a good guess, as much as a possible slight predictability. It was still a great twist in the plot though, and that I guessed it, didn't alter my enjoyment of the book at all.
The world-building in this book was also immense. It's set in 2788, so you would expect a lot to have changed in that period of time. So, not only did Janet create over 700 years worth of human history, but also entirely new cultures, science, technology and even figures of speech (my favourite of which definitely being 'nardle' - almost like 'noodle' - meaning something like 'idiot').
I also really enjoyed the way she constructed the New York Dig Site - a ruined, long-abandoned New York, that is being archaeologically excavated, in order to uncover lost history. The way Janet described the site as having an almost haunted, creepy atmosphere, and the way she allowed us to not only see, but also smell, and imagine touching the derelict buildings and rubble, just bought the entire thing to life for me.
There was one slight downside to the plot, but I can't go into too much detail, because of spoilers. However, I will attempt to describe it as best as I can, without giving anything away.
Basically, around half-way through, Jarra makes a happy discovery, closely followed by a devastating one, and this alters something in her character for a while. However, I hadn't realised that this was supposed to have shifted her a bit, and spent a good amount of time being slightly confused about her sudden change in behaviour.
Hopefully I've said enough to help you understand this, but not too much. As before, though, this didn't effect my enjoyment of the book much, if at all.
I feel it's only appropriate that I also mention Jarra, a little. I loved her character. She definitely stood out from the crowd, and despite being 'handicapped', she stood up and made herself heard. She was a really inspirational character, not only because she stood up for herself, but because she did everything she aimed to do, despite the odds being firmly stacked against her.
She was really feisty, witty, passionate, intelligent, and she could definitely hold her own. I couldn't get enough of her!
Overall it's fairly plain to see, that I loved this. I was immediately sucked into Jarra's world, and found myself emotionally invested in her, very early on. There were plenty of other great characters that I also loved, and I adored Jarra's world so much, that I almost want it to be a reality.
This is such a beautifully rich and deeply gripping science fiction novel, and I absolutely urge you to try it - you won't be disappointed!
Posted by Dani C at 00:00