1/09/2011. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts
pub: Gollancz. 342 page enlarged paperback. Price: GBP 9.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-575-10472-3.
check out website: www.orionbooks.co.uk
We do get some youth Science Fiction from time to time and I do often wonder if an adult should review them when we arenít really the target audience although I do wonder if parents vet their genre reading. Then again, I occasionally wonder what is given to the upcoming generation to ensure that they stay hooked.
Here we have ĎA Long, Long Sleepí by Anna Sheehan. It isnít explained for a great part of the book why Rosalinda Fizroy was left in suspended animation or stasis for sixty-two years, mostly because the story is in first person so you have to wait for the gaps to be filled in. Indeed, Rose has gaps in her own memory. The discovery of why over half-way through the book and the consequent dependency is actually a very adult them and probably spoiler. Even so, you would have thought other people there would have wondered an asked her about her life and found out why.
Roseís parents died in an accident while she was hibernating and, shortly after, there was the Dark Times, where multiple epidemics killed millions across the world. Rose was mostly educated at home and all but forgotten in a sub-basement until discovered by Bren, a teen-ager checking out the building for his caretaker parents. Much of the time then is taken to getting Rose adjusted to her future and the discovery that she is now the heir to an interplanetary empire when she comes of age, which at the age of sixteen wouldnít be that far off. She is very insular and outside of Bren, only makes friends with another outsider, Otto Sextus, a hybrid of human and alien DNA. There is also a Plastine or robot out to kill her to complicate matters. Actually, thatís a lot more complicated than that but itís a crucial element at the end so make sure you have plenty of time to read the last quarter of the book in one sitting.
When I started reading his book, I was thinking this is an old Science Fiction plot except that Rose didnít come from our present but the late 2090s so even her contemporary references are different to our own. So not only is she a stranger in a stranger future, but you would expect her to be a stranger to contemporary readers as well. What it turned out to be was a story about child abuse from the past having repercussions in the future. Sheehan also made it so subtle that youíre not aware of how it was done although there were clues all way through that you put together and realise things arenít quite right and definitely an abuse of power with technology.
From a science point of view, I was a bit more concerned with the effects of extended stasis as there didnít appear to be any muscular weakness and making Rose having a poor diet tends to suggest someone not looking after her health. Using nanobots as a solution is a little wishy-washy and above expectations but Iíll let that pass.
In the detective work in this novel there are a few red herrings and although some of the twists are a little out of the left field when it comes to expectation and who was who, I donít think they were intended to mislead as much as misdirect.
Anna Sheehanís is a very good first person author and very tactile with things that affect Rose the most. It is only when you see her as others see her that you ponder on how dysfunctional she is or the people about her. It is too easy to accept her reality and as much of it is in its own bubble you donít really see much of the world about her or the effects of the epidemics.
I was pleasantly surprised that Sheehan didnít rely on old SF tropes and actually wrote a book that should appeal to adults as well as teens and used her props well. Donít be put off by the cover connection to Sleeping Beauty as I think that is a bit of a misnomer. I could quite easily see this book making the basis for a good film. An interesting read.
GF Willmettspub: Gollancz. 342 page enlarged paperback. Price: GBP 9.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-575-10472-3.
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