One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.
The above lines aren’t from Where Futures End, the debut speculative fiction novel from Parker Peevyhouse--but they do form a portent ode for the story. Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky (from which the above lines are taken) is an important influence on the five tales told in the strange and wondrous Where Futures End (especially with regards to the vorpal and the blade).
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning:
Where Futures End tells the story of five teenagers, over the span of a hundred years.
Dylan has always felt out of place. He has always told stories about the Other Place--a fairy land where a beautiful queen rules with a fair hand. But since that day at the beach, since his father left, everything has changed. Dylan’s always felt like he was different; he believes the Other Place is real, and that he alone has the ability to get there again. He also possesses the ability to alter people’s perceptions with his vorpal (an innate organ that grants him this ability), though no one believes him. Dylan will stop at nothing, though, to return to the land he so desperately believes is real.
Ten years later, the world is a different place. A teenager named Brixney works to eke out every possible hit and monetization of her always-streaming feed. Ever since her parents died, she has been in steep debt with her older brother, and she is desperate for a chance to change her fate--so when a strange young man strolls into her work, she’s eager for any opportunity.
Thirty years later, another young woman named Epony grapples with the very real possibility that her family farm and home will disappear in rising floodwaters--and in an attempt to save everything she cares for, she will go “high concept” and become a packaged, produced pop star under the formulated guise of her family’s home sponsor.
Sixty years later, a young man named Reef--who doesn’t have a strong vorpal--tries to immerse himself in an alternate game world by any means (drugs, alliances, and odd jobs). Little does he know that the relationships he forms could mean the end of everything he has ever worked for.
A hundred years later, the world has changed even more--and young, passionate, observant Quinn believes that she has a destiny that could mean the end of all things. Her choice will save a world, and damn another one to death.
Over the course of these five narratives, Where Futures End tells the generational saga of a world on the brink of collapse, and the extraordinary actions and occurrences that could change everything.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with this novel--I was flummoxed when I read the book summary, but simultaneously intrigued. The end result finds me still flummoxed, but my sense of intrigue satiated in the best possible way. Peevyhouse tells five stories--which truly form one grand, overarching story--spanning a century and two inextricably linked yet hard-to-traverse worlds. Where Futures End isn’t exactly a time travel novel or a work of pure science fiction--despite the flash-forward nature of the narrative, the focus on evolving technology, and the dying environment, this surprisingly is a fantasy novel. It turns out that humans are not alone. There is a universe alongside ours, but it’s one that includes lush forests, crystal palaces and elven royalty--and only the humans with strong enough vorpals can traverse this promised land. I won’t spoil more of this, but I will say that the reveals over the course of the narrative are slow-burning, unexpected, and strangely beautiful.Easily, the novel’s greatest success is the overarching plot and its unpredictable resolution--this, plus Peevyhouse’s gift for characterization is fantastic. I especially appreciated the evolution from Dylan’s more familiar time to Brixney’s debtor colony existence ruled by advertisers and constant feed monetization. (I mean, let’s face it--Brixney’s dystopian future doesn’t seem too impossibly far off.) The following two stories were somewhat less engaging--at least for me personally (the small-town jilted girlfriend concocting a publicity scheme and the drug-addicted gamer were a little cliche for my tastes).
These things said, Peevyhouse brings it home with her truly awesome final story. And while there are other nitpicks--the fact that language doesn’t change much over the course of a hundred years, for example--Where Futures End accomplishes exactly what it needs to do. It’s a haunting, frightening, Carroll-inspired vision of the future.
And it’s pretty darn good.In Book Smugglerish, 6 and a half half vorpal blades out of 10.