November 23, 2017

The Advocate's Toolbox

Before and After the Apocalypse

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Two science fiction thrillers on review today, from two new Simon & Schuster imprints that highlight speculative fiction: Saga Press and Simon451.

Lee Kelly‘s debut, City of Savages, could easily have been published YA. It alternates two YA narrators, sisters, as they survive post-WWIII Manhattan. This is a good post-apocalyptic novel, and readers experience the war itself in flashback as the girls read their mother’s journal. The pace never flags, it is full of strong female characters and vivid images. NYC spaces like the Carlyle Hotel, Central Park, the Standard Hotel by the Highline, and the subway tunnels are used effectively. It reminds me of Ann Aguirre’s Enclave, although here the characters mostly live above-ground. If you have readers who enjoyed that trilogy, this would be a great book to hand them.

A Vision of Fire gives us a world on the brink of apocalypse. You might do a double-take when you see the lead author’s name. This is Gillian Anderson’s debut, as in the actress of X-Files fame. (Although right now I have trouble seeing her as anything but the lead in BBC’s The Fall. Anyone with me??)  This is the start to an exciting new series, The Earthend Saga, that kicks off with some strange teen behavior. You could suggest this to teens who have enjoyed Dan Brown (still plenty popular in my library) or similar globetrotting suspense.

KELLY, Lee. City of Savages. 416p. S. & S./Saga Pr. Feb. 2015. Tr $25.99. ISBN 9781481410304. LC 2014001540.  

Sky and Phee live in post–World War III Manhattan with their mother, Sarah. They spend the warmer months in what used to be a luxurious Wall Street apartment, tending their rooftop garden and hunting for meat. As winter approaches, they return to Central Park for the Census. Now teenagers, Sky was a baby and Phee yet unborn when the Red Allies bombed the city and set up a POW camp in the Park. The girls know surprisingly little of the past before Sky discovers Sarah’s journal from that time and steals it. The sisters read the journal in spurts, learning secrets about the past in between action-packed happenings in the present. A group of refugees from England arrives in the Park, upsetting the status quo, and eventually causing the family to flee. The novel is told in alternating chapters from each sister’s point of view. Phee is the impetuous one; she loves the island and wants to stay. Sky is a reader and a thinker who can’t wait to escape and explore the wider world. Their close relationship is disrupted by Ryder, a handsome young Brit who appeals to both of them. They need to focus on survival after they escape the POW camp together and make their way south through the city, encountering cannibals and fanatical missionaries along the way. While readers won’t find much new here, the pace is excellent, the narrative voices compelling, and the vision of a war-broken New York City engaging.—Angela Carstensen, Convent of the Sacred Heart, New York City

ANDERSON, Gillian with Jeff Rovin. A Vision of Fire. 292p. (Earthend Saga: Bk. 1). S. & S./Simon451. Oct. 2014. Tr $25. ISBN 9781476776521. LC 2014022692.  

Caitlin O’Hara is juggling her children’s psychology practice, her deaf son, and her own social life as a single mom when she receives a video that stops her cold.  It’s a recording of the daughter of the Indian ambassador to the United Nations. The girl, Maanik, is speaking a new language, acting out, and entering a trancelike state. But her father is in the midst of tense negotiations to prevent war in the Kashmir region. He doesn’t want his daughter’s weakness to be made public, so he asks Caitlin for help. Soon a YouTube video from Haiti appears with a similar situation, and rats swarm on a building in New York City where a recently discovered meteorite is being stored. Something peculiar is happening worldwide and Caitlin must solve the problem. X-Files fans will be thrilled that the actress known for playing Scully has written a book in the genre that made her famous. It helps that Rovin is the cowriter—he’s the author of Tom Clancy’s “Op-Center” series (HarperCollins) and understands the bestselling action and adventure genre.  Voodoo, Norse mythology, hypnosis, and unknown ancient civilizations all play a part in this novel, and it really does read like the plot of an X-Files show. This is the first book published by Simon & Schuster’s new imprint, a reference to Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.—Sarah B. Hill, Lake Land College, Mattoon, IL

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Angela Carstensen About Angela Carstensen

Angela Carstensen is Head Librarian and an Upper School Librarian at Convent of the Sacred Heart in New York City. Angela served on the Alex Awards committee for four years, chairing the 2008 committee, and chaired the first YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adult committee in 2009. Recently, she edited Outstanding Books for the College Bound: Titles and Programs for a New Generation (ALA Editions, 2011). Contact her via Twitter @AngeReads.

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