Via time travel, two siblings are whisked away from an Earth apocalypse in 2016 to a distant-future space station—where they discover they may be the key to saving the world.
In this debut YA novel, high school freshman Emily Clocke and her older brother, Eric— children of a pair of scientists—have unhappily relocated from California to Chicago after their father perished in a lab accident. Her feelings of dislocation are complicated by a science teacher, Ms. Crana, who seems suspiciously attentive to Emily. But a larger crisis looms on the horizon, literally, with the sky changing unnatural colors. Suddenly Eric and Emily are transported from all that they know by Ms. Crana, who claims they are the children of time travelers who lost their memories during an Earth mission. Now the Clocke kids are 500 years in the future at a space station called Caelestis. Earth is a barren rock and its only human descendants are on Caelestis, enhanced physically and mentally by nanotechnology. They call themselves the Remnant and dwell as ultra-logical telepaths and time travelers, troubled by the fact that historical records have been expunged of everything about Earth’s catastrophe. But the Remnant does maintain a quasi-religious “Prophecy” that two visitors will set everything right, and many interpret Emily and Eric as these saviors. As such, the siblings are pretty much allowed to do whatever they want, including maladroit attempts to take “timeships” back to 2016 to see the Earth cataclysm. Can they stop it? Let’s just say the protagonists’ temporal problem-solving would not earn good grades from Doctor Who, as the repeated crisscrossing time zones, snarled cause/effect overlaps, and predestination paradoxes make previous mind-expanding sci-fi material that ventured into such territory (like the films Donnie Darko, 12 Monkeys, and Prime) seem like models of linear storytelling. Mattson’s ambitious time-travel adventure offers an intriguing setup. But the tale ties Möbius strips into pretzels with its plotting. The questions only multiply, as one character says: “I don’t know what any of this means! I don’t know what will happen if I do something differently! Nobody does!” Which may be true, but which leaves a whole lot unexplained by the last page (a sequel is promised). While pitched at a tween to teen readership, adults won’t feel condescended to; it’s pretty puzzling for all ages.
A sci-fi mind-stretcher with a strong opening that spirals down confusing pathways.