Monday, February 10, 2014
The Flight of the Silvers (Daniel Price)
The Flight of the Silvers is one of those books that's difficult to blurb, and because of it, I was misled about the nature of the story, I think. I don't like the word "misled" because it makes it sound like intentional misdirection, but really I just had no idea what the story was or where it would go before I started reading. It's difficult to explain because so much of the basic plot information unfolds slowly--to describe the plot here would spoil a lot of it. So I'll try my best.
One day, our world melts down. It disappears completely. Everything is destroyed and all that remains is a void. But 6 of us are saved: Amanda and Hannah, two sisters who have never gotten along; Mia, a young girl; David, a young boy; Theo, an alcoholic former child prodigy; and Zack, a comic book artist.
Strange, almost-human-but-not-quite people put bracelets on their wrists right before the apocalypse and they are spared, transported to an alternate reality. There, they are rounded up and kept in a facility where they learn that they have special gifts--they can control a force called tempis, something readily available in the universe they found themselves in that doesn't exist in ours. It's to my best understanding that tempis is similar to time, and controlling it allows you to manipulate an object's age or position in time (more or less).
The new universe is full of machines that can control tempis, but people who can do so are considerably rarer and believed not to exist. And so the six Silvers fall into a conspiracy in which they are trying to be killed because they are believed to be the catalysts for the destruction of this alternate reality they now belong to. They have to escape the facility (in California) and head for New York to meet with a mysterious figure named Peter who is supposed to help them.
Okay. I think I've done the best that I can with explaining the book. It is long, like 600 pages, and I felt all 600 of them. It's a book that doesn't really know that it wants to do with itself, I think, and it feels a lot like several things: there are definite X-Men vibes, a road-trip flavor, and an August: Osage County character study. I'm afraid that's not a winning formula.
We'll start with the "magic powers" or "talents" or whatever we're calling them. I know that this is supposed to be the exciting, gripping part of the book, but I was really having a hard time engaging. Most of the powers are lame (look, I can run really fast!), and the ones that are interesting (like the characters that have them) are sort of minimized to the background. We spend too much time at the beginning of the novel hanging out with the Silvers in the facility while they learn their gifts. To Price's credit, the characters' understanding and acceptance of their powers is one of the least annoying I've read. We don't have to spend too much time with characters who deny or can't believe their own powers. They move on pretty fast.
But as characters, they're really annoying. I mentioned that it reminded me of August: Osage County because all the characters are messed up and argue a lot. But there was something so mind-numbing about their problems that I wasn't in the slightest worried about the developments of their personalities. One of the things that Tracy Letts did so well in his play is that he makes us feel like we have known these characters and their personality idiosyncrasies for forever without forcing us to retread them over and over until we get the point. Price could really have used a lesson in this area because if I had to read one more passage about how Hannah sleeps with lots of men and can't deal with being alone, I might have driven a knife through my eye.
The road-trip part may have been the best aspect of the book. Fleeing from the US Government and the other people with powers who are after them proves to be actually interesting and exciting. They flee from safe site to safe site. My only problem with the journey element of the novel is that it, too, is overly long. When you get to the end of the book, you realize that it's not the actual end, but rather the end of volume one. SO MANY PAGES.
I mentioned the interesting characters. There are two. There's Theo, who is a recovering alcoholic former child prodigy who gets premonitions of the future. I'm more interested in the implications his talent gets toward the end of the book than I am in him as a character, because he's pretty dopey for most of the novel. The other character is Evan, who can go back to the beginning of the timeline starting with Silvers showing up in the new universe because, as it turns out, he is one of them. He retains memories of every single play-through and, predictably, he is a villain. He's great. I wish he featured more prominently, but unfortunately he is forced into the background frequently. He has a confrontation scene toward the end of the book and is just sort of disposed of in a way that is immensely frustrating.
My point, then, is that The Flight of the Silvers is not a terrible book. It's not a great book, at least not for me, because we spend too much time reading about vaguely boring characters argue about things that I couldn't get myself to care about. By the end of the story, I was exhausted of both the plot and the people involved in it, and I don't believe I'll continue onward with the series. But it will certainly appeal to some people, so if you sound intrigued, then go for it. You'll enjoy.
My rating: 3/5
The Flight of the Silvers on Goodreads
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