For the first book of 2016 for the blog here on Kirkus, I pulled an interesting and slightly complicated take on time travel, called Ei8ht: Outcast. From Rafael Albuquerque and Mike Johnson, this book takes a very unique approach to storytelling through the use of colors to define periods in time. You know where you are within the narrative—past, present, future and The Meld—based on the color on the pages. This took me a couple minutes to get used to, but once I did, I found it fascinating way to use colors to tell a nonlinear story.
About the story: Joshua is a chrononaut, sent through time to “save the world.” He agrees to the trip on one condition; he wants an extra day. Why isn’t immediately clear, nor is the how. He is warned that the trip may cause some amnesia. In flashes between timelines, we see him before and after his trip, being told about the amnesia, then experiencing it. This becomes a common storytelling device throughout the book, flashing backward and forward in time.
Your clue is always the color: green for the past, purple for the present, blue for the future, and The Meld is orangey-yellow.
Once on his mission, Joshua remembers to tune his radio communicator and is told to “follow the dinosaur,” who leads him to Nila, a young warrior who lives in The Meld, a sort of in-between place with an inhospitable climate. While struggling to remember who he is, and why he’s been sent back in time, Joshua learns that someone called The Tyrant rules these lands, along with an enforcer known as The Spear. Together, they released the Scourge to solidify their power. Nila’s people remain free from their rule, but just barely. What Joshua doesn’t know is that the elders of Nila’s tribe want to trade Joshua to the Tyrant in exchange for peace.
But Joshua still intends to complete his mission, and somehow, the voice from his radio—the one who told him to follow the dinosaur who led him to Nila—that voice belonged to Nila….
The combination of the colors, art, and storyline create a compelling package. Albuquerque’s art style is amazing and evocative. He manages to pack a lot of detail into every panel, whether it’s the facial expressions of his characters or the cities and landscapes that span pages.
Sometimes, time travel stories are problematic for me—especially with a lot of back and forth glimpses—but I found that once I got into the groove with this one, it flowed really smoothly. I can’t recall anyone using colors to define setting quite this way before, which made for a really interesting read.
On top of all that, the worldbuilding comes at you fast and furious. You jump right in, similar to how a good short story begins knee-deep in the action and pulls you along for the ride.
Excellent start to 2016.
Patrick Hester is an author, blogger and 2013 Hugo Award Winner for Best Fanzine (Editor - SF Signal), and 2014 Hugo Award Winner for Best Fancast. He lives in Colorado, writes science fiction and fantasy, and can usually be found hanging out on his Twitter feed. His Functional Nerds and SF Signal weekly podcasts have both been nominated for Parsec awards, and the SF Signal podcast was nominated for a 2012, 2013, and 2014 Hugo Award. In addition to his Kirkus posts, he writes for atfmb.com, SF Signal and Functional Nerds.