The following won’t mean anything to some of you, but it will mean everything to others: “Wherever you go, there you are.”
Read Bookshelves of Doom on the new girl-spy book 'Ruby Redfort.'
For the rest of you, hang in there. I’ll back up. First of all, you’re all aware of how fantastic Pete Hautman is, right? With Sweetblood, he gave us a vampire story way before vampires were sparkly, and with Rash, he gave us a dystopian future two years before The Hunger Games. With Godless, he gave us a story about religion and...well, that one is better experienced than described. With Invisible, he contributed a gripping (but still sensitive) story to the unreliable narrator trend of the mid-aughts; he channeled Robert Cormier in Blank Confession; and he wrote what has become one of my favorite bittersweet romances of all time: The Big Crunch.
In The Obsidian Blade, Hautman returns to science fiction with a story about mysterious disks—or diskos—that act as portals to different places and different times. Unfortunately for Tucker, our 13-year-old hero, the diskos were placed all over the world by ghostly observers from the far future who “are endlessly fascinated by the true deaths of others,” so many of the portals lead to times and places of great violence and bloodshed. Like the roof of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
Tucker’s father, the Rev. Adrian Feye, is the first to (accidentally) go through one. When he returns—seemingly minutes later—his clothes are ruined, he’s suddenly tanned, he’s got a young girl with him, and he’s renounced his faith in God. Months pass, Tucker’s mother’s mind inexplicably begins to deteriorate, and one night, Tucker’s parents both disappear.
That’s just the beginning.
The book has odd pacing, but it works. The first half is set in the present day in Tucker’s hometown of Hopewell, Minn.** While Tucker knows that there’s something strange going on—what with the diskos appearing and disappearing all over the place and the huge changes in his father’s personality, among other things—until his parents disappear, life just meanders on. He makes a rope swing with his friends, lights firecrackers and gossips about the new girl in town. Even after his parents disappear, life with his biker uncle is pretty normal. (Or as normal as life with a biker uncle can be.)
Until Tucker goes through a disko.
That’s when the pacing changes, and The Obsidian Blade goes from low-level-Ray-Bradbury-subtly-weird to off-the-wall-Jasper-Fforde*** crossed with The-Matrix-on-47,000-pounds-of-Sweet-Tarts-hyperweird. Plus some serious meditation on faith, religion and destiny, madness and vanity. Basically, it gets nuts, in the best possible way. And, in addition to being a rip-roaring adventure on its own, it sets the stage for some epic weirdness to come.
It’s not going to be for everyone. Readers who fear science fiction with unpronounceable, vowel-heavy names and exposition about futuristic cultures—this might not be the book for you. Me? I’m already excited to read the next installment.
*I can’t imagine that it was a coincidence. After all, the name of the series is The Klaatu Diskos, which is another classic SF reference. If it was a coincidence, well...it was the most fittingly serendipitous literary coincidence I’ve encountered in a long, long time.
**Actually, much of the rest of the book is set there, too, but in the far-distant future.
***Minus the literary elements.
Let's be honest. If she isn't writing Bookshelves of Doom or doing her librarian thing, Leila Roy is most likely being tragically unproductive due to the shiny lure of Pinterest.