Generations have passed since the cosmic event that formed the flash curtain, a toxic wall of deadly radiation. The remaining humans are scratching out a desperate survival in the hellish aftermath.
Sixteen-year-old Orion is a Subpar, a race of humans who have adapted to the radiation. Subpars now mine the land for the cirium needed to protect the city state of Alara, one of the last refuges for humanity. Despite her youth, Orion is the best miner. She and her partner, Dram, travel ever deeper into the mines, risking their lives to bring up enough ore to secure safe passage for themselves and their families through the radioactive curtain to freedom. But when a shuttle full of new cavers arrives, it brings with it a terrible truth. The promise of freedom is a lie. Subpars are far too valuable to be allowed to leave their posts. Though the premise of this novel has promise, it has too many credibility issues to succeed. The flash curtain and its resultant dangers are supported by frustratingly vague science, and the various human mutations, including a race bio-adapted to perform magic, are similarly undefined. The chaotic plot and one-dimensional characters further frustrate the fascinating premise. An open ending hints at a sequel. Orion and Dram both appear to be white, but this future is a multiracial one.
A distinctive post-apocalyptic world stunted by clumsy writing and ambiguous worldbuilding. (Science fiction. 12-16)