|Children of the Different||
Three flying saucers
Fellow blogger SC Flynn gave me a copy of the audiobook version of his first self-published novel, Children of the Different. I enjoyed listening to an Australian-authored audiobook with an Australian narrator — most Aussie audiobooks I’ve run across are read by British people for some reason.
There are two overall settings in this novel. The first is a post-apocalyptic Australia. The main characters live in an agricultural settlement which, at first, seems idyllic/peaceful/relaxing, but in the wilderness around the settlement, bloodthirsty “feral” people attack the farmers and their livestock. The settlement people also wage a war of sabotage against the “city people” of Perth, who are trying to rebuild pre-apocalyptic society.
The settlement people, who use some technologies such as rifles and livestock fences, think that computers and cell phones caused the apocalypse. Are they right? I’m not telling. I think it’s interesting (and probably realistic) that the settlement people never stop to consider whether their attacks on the city people are pretty much the same as the ferals’ attacks on themselves.
The novel’s second setting is a dream/fantasy world that children visit when they go through puberty. The two point-of-view characters are a twin brother and sister who face threats to their lives in both settings.
The antagonist is known as The Anteater. I’ve always thought anteaters were interesting animals, but now that I’ve read this book, the word anteater has a second, sinister meaning.
I think I’ve said everything I can about the novel without including spoilers, so I’ll close out my review by talking about Mr. Flynn’s writing style. I think most self-published authors, and a good number of traditionally-published authors, could pick up a few pointers by reading “Children of the Different”. Here are a few of those pointers:
- No info-dumping. I’m more tolerant of info-dumping than most readers, but this story does a good job of avoiding it. I feel like I really know post-apocalyptic Australia, but my knowledge comes from conversation fragments, the characters’ clothing, their actions, etc.. I never felt like someone stood in front of a chalkboard and said “now, let’s go over the six phases of how this world came to be.” For example, the settlement people have a craft/cottage industry to make their own clothing. The author never wrote this directly, but shows the reader that the clothing is made of natural fibers (wool, etc.) and is maybe undyed or a bit uneven. By contrast, if the characters had worn “I’m with Stupid” T-shirts and used nylon rope for belts, then I would have known they were a scavenger society.
- No filler. I wouldn’t call this novel fast-paced, but I felt that each chapter moved the story forward towards its conclusion. I never finished a chapter and said to myself, “OK, that was just to pad the page count.” I find myself saying that a lot lately when reading traditionally-published novels.
- No young-adult weirdness. This is a young-adult book, but I know that mostly from the age of the characters, not from the writing style. There are a few times where the characters don’t pick up on things as quickly as an urban adult would, and they occasionally think about their future marriage partner (these are rural kids living in a settlement with only four teenagers left, two of whom are brother and sister), but I felt these thoughts came up at appropriate times. In the (very few) other young-adult books I’ve read, the hero, struggling to load his crossbow as the minotaur charges him, stops to wonder, “Does Suzie think I’m cute?”
- Conclusive ending. This novel wraps up. The immediate crisis, actually crises, are solved one way or the other. I’m planning to write a post about this topic someday, as I’m seeing a lot of self-published series where each novel ends with a cliffhanger. Some of these are so bad, I’ve taken to calling them “mid-sentence endings”. I read long series of books (20+ in some cases), but I always drop a series at book one if it ends with a cliffhanger, because I don’t know if the author is capable of writing a conclusion.
Speaking of cliffhangers … if this review grabbed your attention, be sure to check back next week, when I’ll interview the author about his writing and various unrelated sci-fi topics.