Excruciating, cathartic, and triumphant.

LATCHKEY

From the Archivist Wasp series , Vol. 2

Near-future science-fiction crimes bleed into dystopian horror centuries later in a wildly imaginative genre-hybrid sequel to Archivist Wasp (2015).

For three years, Isabel (ex-Archivist and no longer going by “Wasp”) and the former shrine girls have gradually created a home; now savage invaders force them to fight to defend it. While hiding refugees in tunnels buried since the Before, Isabel again encounters the ghosts of a nameless, long-dead supersoldier and his partner. Instead of passing peacefully on to the afterlife, the ghosts are seeking their lost memories of the Latchkey Project that engineered them, secrets that could guarantee Isabel’s future…or destroy it. Less mythic in tone and more conventional in structure than the first, this title nonetheless delivers gripping action while deepening mysteries in restrained prose studded with flashes of vulgar brutality and startling poetry. Isabel’s post-apocalyptic world, with all its graphic violence and cruelty, still exhibits solidarity, tenderness, and joy. Allusions to names of varying ethnicities and a range of skin tones indicate an unobtrusive diversity. The emotional core of the story resides in the magnificently understated relationship between damaged, heartsick Isabel and the arrogant yet oddly fragile ghost, a kinship forged from their shared raw courage, ferocious loyalty, and bone-deep integrity, punctuated by an uncertain, heart-piercing vulnerability. Although this narrative provides satisfying closure, readers will hope for more about these unlikely allies.

Excruciating, cathartic, and triumphant. (Science fiction/horror. 12-adult)

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9889124-8-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Mythic Delirium

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2018

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An insightful tale of persecution and survival.

UNSEEN

In Scott’s debut YA novel, a young girl tries to heal her father and avoid being harmed by supernatural forces persecuting members of her culture.

Alaia’s father is deathly ill, and she’s doing everything she can to save him with a doctor’s medicine and her own herbal remedies. If he dies, not only will she lose her dad, whom she loves, but it will also leave their family vulnerable to accusations of witchcraft if there’s no man in the house. She’s already under suspicion for her use of herbal remedies, and her position is made more precarious by her love for Mateo, the inquisitor’s nephew, and her former friendship with a woman who was executed for possessing a mark associated with witchcraft. When Alaia is visited by a spirit, who later saves her from being hit by a carriage, the mark that condemned her friend appears on her, too—bringing new magical abilities with it. Despite her efforts to hide the mark, she’s found out; the inquisitor tries to have her executed, and when Mateo seemingly damns her too, she escapes. She’s aided by the spirit of Txomin, a boy she once knew and who reveals information to her about her long-lost brother. Over the course of this supernatural adventure story, Scott weaves in clear parallels between Alaia’s story and those of real-life women who were accused of being witches in Europe and America. She’s particularly deft at showing the ways in which people in power can threaten and exploit vulnerable societies by appealing to their bigotry. By filtering the story through the lens of an oppressed culture, Scott highlights that the novel is about the persecution of a vulnerable group rather than a struggle between similarly powerful forces. The author also makes strong use of figurative language to convey her central characters’ feelings, which becomes just as important to the book’s goal of inviting empathy as its plot points are; at one point, for instance, Alaia’s fear is described in the phrase: “A throbbing pain split across my chest, unfurling like tentacles.”

An insightful tale of persecution and survival.

Pub Date: July 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-94-285682-5

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Literary Wanderlust

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2021

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Intelligent cli-fi fantasy with Fab Four wish-fulfillment tossed into the Magical Mystery Tour.

THE EDGE OF ELSEWHERE

In this debut novel, three teenagers in the parched, dying world of 2079 use Albert Einstein’s time-travel secrets to go back a century and warn humanity via a surprised music superstar.

Stea’s book joins the field of “cli-fi” climate-change tales, with time travel and real-life eminences involved. A prologue indicates that Einstein discovered time travel and thus beheld the New York World’s Fair in 1964, years after his official death. Now it’s 2079, 40 years after the eco-collapse, mass extinction, and calamitous fires that accompanied global warming. In dusty, mostly deserted New Jersey, adolescent Abbey Lane subsists with her holdout family and friends while most everyone else has migrated to the Great Lakes for scarce fresh water. Exploring the ruins of Princeton University with her friend Max Sutter, Abbey finds Einstein’s secret journal hidden in an antique desk. Her asthmatic, invalid brother, Paul, possesses an awesome intellect, and he deciphers “Uncle Albert’s” time-travel methods from the journal’s pages—how to use naturally occurring, invisible wormholes in time/space to voyage back and forth chronologically. When Paul locates a scheduled wormhole within travel distance, the three kids sneak away from home on a mission to go back in time and warn the world about the future fate that will ensue from industrial emissions and apathy. They do indeed teleport to 1971, and the trio winds up in a New York City filled with hippie idealists and Vietnam War protesters, who sense something special about the three teens who act like they’ve never seen green grass or rain before. Stea somehow avoids a campy tone amid the Greenwich Village and Bleecker Street counterculture (not an easy feat). When the kids enter the orbit of legendary rock musician John Lennon, the handling of Lennon as a fictional character is realistic and persuasive where a more star-struck SF narrative might have gone off the rails. Indeed, readers will suddenly notice Beatles references insinuated throughout. Though modulated for a YA readership, all ages can jam to the leisurely narrative, and older ones who still remember the period may appreciate the what-if treatment that’s brought off well. While the author credits numerous writers, thinkers, and rockers as influences, AWOL is Jack Finney, whose nostalgic time-travel tales echo this one.

Intelligent cli-fi fantasy with Fab Four wish-fulfillment tossed into the Magical Mystery Tour. (acknowledgments, author bio)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73313-591-7

Page Count: 438

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2020

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