A disabled teen archaeologist works in fascinating, hazardous conditions on a far-future Earth.
It’s 2789. Humanity lives on numerous planets. Transportation, including between star systems, merely requires stepping into a portal—even schoolchildren do a “mass off-world kiddie commute” daily. But off-world atmospheres are fatal for the rare babies born Handicapped, who are portalled to Earth within minutes and must stay forever. Parents tend to disappear, unwilling to live on Earth just to raise a “throwback.” Earth provides those on its Handicapped wards full care, education and career choice, but Jarra’s bitter that “exos” (non-Handicapped norms) consider her an “ape,” “the garbage of the universe.” Enrolling in a Pre-history course that’s taught on Earth but administered by an off-world university, Jarra plans to quench her thirst for history while teaching some exos a lesson. Terrific nitty-gritty details limn her team’s excavations of a high-risk dig site that was once Manhattan. Although readers won’t see disabilities they recognize, Edwards successfully shows that being physically unable to partake in society’s core structure equals disability. Jarra slides temporarily—implausibly—from matter-of-fact first-person narrator to a character in denial of her reality, but more important are perilous rescues, Jarra’s skills, a solar superstorm that closes portals and endangers hundreds of Military, and some humorous romance with sparkling chemistry.
Action, rich archaeological detail and respectfully levelheaded disability portrayal, refreshingly free from symbolism and magical cures, make this stand out. (Science fiction. 11-16)