So denies introducing me to this title, so that leaves or a random find on Amazon. However I got initially heard about this sucker, I left it to rot on a wish list for a while. But the January poll for YA Futuristic Fiction got me jonesing to read as much of it as I could, so I plopped it in my cart and read it as soon as I was able.
The premise: ganked from BN.com: Seventeen-year-old Joss is a rebel, and a student of time travel at the prestigious Centre for Neo-Historical Studies. This year, for the first time, the Centre has an alien student— Mavkel, from the planet Choria. And Mavkel has chosen Joss, of all people, as his roommate and study partner. Then Mavkel gets sick. Joss quickly realizes that his will to live is draining away. The only way she can help Mavkel is by breaking the Centre’s strictest rules . . . and that means going back in time to change history.
Review style: definite spoilers. It’s a short book, and simple for what it is (I mean that in a good way), but I want to be able to talk about specific plot points, and I can’t do that without spoiling this thing. If you want to be surprised (and trust me, if you’re interested in this book, you’ll WANT to be surprised), skip to the “My Rating” section at the end of the review.
I think this book initially grabbed my attention not only for its cover and intriguing title, but the fact that Goodman is blending science fiction and music. Add time travel to the mix and you’ve got an interested reader in me. That said, I do wish music had played a bigger role in the story. Goodman hinted at it in some places, but music in and of itself never really served a major purpose. It had no specific role in the plot, and I really wish it had, simply because I used to be a music major and understand how analytical music is, and therefore love to see that fusion between music and science. As it stands, the music stands as a talent for Joss and a connection to the alien species (song seems to play a major role in their language), but nothing truly defining. We see passages where Mav will “sing” something, but again, there’s the selfish part of me that really wishes this had been explored more thoroughly.
But that’s a bit of a nitpick: I rather liked a lot in this book. First there’s the rather quick pace, even though the story itself is a little slow in starting out. To be honest, I had trouble getting my footing in the first few pages, but regardless, I found myself engaged by Joss’s voice and situation. One of the other things that really appealed to me about this book was the link that Mav needed to survive as a member of his species. This touched on themes and conventions I worked with in my own thesis novel, so I’m always happy to see what other writers are up to. In this case, I very much liked Goodman’s world building and her explanations as to WHY Chorians have/need this mindlink with their twin. Quite fascinating, and I really enjoyed seeing how Mav and Joss were connected, though to be honest, once the pair went back in time, I saw the pieces of the puzzle fall into place pretty quickly. Because let’s face it, Goodman does a good job in dropping clues that Joss isn’t all that she seems, that she has connections to the alien race, so I was ready and waiting for the revelation where we learn how Joss was created with alien DNA. A funny scene, but a good one.
I found myself also enjoying the alien-ness of Mav and his people. Physical descriptions were great, because even though I had trouble visualizing the aliens, I had no trouble accepting that they LOOKED very different from us. I had more trouble accepting how certain things worked, like what it would take for Joss to be able to join minds with Mav and why (sure, it’s explained, but it just never clicked for me in terms of making sense), but Mav was quite a sympathetic character, and I couldn’t help but root for him. Which, in turn, made me want to smack Joss every so often, because I thought it was obvious what Mav needed, even when she didn’t.
The time travel element of the story is quite fun. Simple, once you realize what’s happening, but fun. I liked that Camden-Stone had these different layers, and I loved seeing how Joss had played such a huge role in his life. I did question why Joss didn’t warn him of what the future held in terms of his experiment, but 1) it didn’t seem to occur to her until they were already leaving and 2) it gave Camden-Stone even MORE motivation to hate her and see her fail. Plus, if she’d warned him, that would’ve disrupted the time-loop, and then the world as we know it would’ve split into a alternate universe a-la Star Trek or the entire world would implode because time couldn’t right itself. Or whatever. At any rate, being a fan of time travel let me understand what was going to happen and how, so really all I had to do was sit back and enjoy the ride.
Worth the Cash: but close to a must-have. The only reason it’s not is because it does take a little while for the plot to get moving, and once it does, the book reads at warp speed instead of its previously fast pace. Still, it’s a fun read with characters you can really sympathize with. I enjoyed the world-building of near-future Australia, and the time travel parts of the story misled me at first, and then once I settled into them, I found myself having lots of fun at guessing what would happen next and how it would affect CURRENT TIME and being right. It’s a fun read, and one I’m really glad I sank my teeth into. I wish music had played a bigger role, especially given the fantastic title, but that’s more of a personal preference than anything. At any rate, this book is highly recommended to fans of 1) time travel stories and/or 2) readers looking for science fiction in the YA genre. This was very enjoyable, and I can easily see myself picking up more from this author in the future.
Cover Commentary: at first glance, this cover reminds me very much of the striking Beggars in Spain, which might just be the reason I looked at this book to begin with. I really, really like this cover, especially with the DNA strands and the musical notation ghosted over the image. Fantastically eye-catching, which makes me happy.
Next up: Since you won’t get the review for The Last Unicorn (which is what is next in the queue) until December 31st, you’re going to have to make due with The Declaration by Gemma Malley