Ahoy there me mateys! This be the eighth book in me Ports for Plunder – 19 Books in 2019 list. The story of reading this book can trace it’s roots back to the 2015 John W. Campbell award finalists. For reasons that escape me now, I decided I was going to eventually read all of the 16 candidates for that specific year. Nina Allan appeared on that list and reading her book from that year, the race, marked the half-way point of me goal. I liked it enough that I wanted to read more of her work. Then this current book appeared on the 2018 John W. Campbell award finalists list. So I put it in me 19 in 2019 goal.
So I really liked this book and yet I will likely never re-read it. But I will likely re-read the race even though I thought it wasn’t as well written. That seems contradictory. I will try and explain. For the race, these were me thoughts:
The author seemingly has an idea of alternate or mirror worlds. But were they really? I don’t know. The book certainly brought up more questions than providing answers. I feel like the first read barely scratched the surface and that it deserves a re-read after some time has passed.
The author does seem to have a fasination with other worlds that are seemingly connected to ours and also certainly provokes way more questions than providing answers. I think the major difference between the two reads is that the character development in the rift was not the primary focus of the book. It was more of an exploration of the concept of rifts and their consquences. The sci-fi nature of this book was also VERY slow to appear.
The story is told mostly from the perspective of Selena. Selena and her sister, Julie, were extremely close growing up. But as Julie is turning 17 and Selena is turning 15, a rift has formed in their relationship. Julie is distancing herself from her sister. Selena feels this change keenly. Their parents’ marriage also has developed a rift and so the summer is filled with the akwardness between all members of the household. Then Julie goes missing and her disappearance is never solved.
The rift between the family members turns into a gulf of pain with extreme consquences for the remaining members of the family. The mother refuses to speak about Julie, the dad is convinced that his daughter is still alive and won’t give up on the search, and Selena is consumed by survivor’s guilt. But then 20 years later, a woman claiming to be Julie calls Selena. She also claims to have spent the missing years on an alien planet.
The majority of the focus is on how Selena reacts to the news of Julie’s possible survival. Is it her sister? Or is it too good to be true? What actually happened to Julie? Is Julie sane? I was completely engrossed in following Selena’s thoughts and feelings on the subject. I also was fascinated by the details of the alien world and Selena’s hunt for the truth. The author choose to add in details like newspaper articles and journal entries that helped enrich the story. But I never really grew attached to any of the characters in this tale, unlike when I read the race.
That said, I absolutely loved the book and the unraveling mystery and even the ending. I was completely satisfied with me read and had even picked a side in the hunt for the truth. The problems came when I realized the huge holes that had no answers. What happens to Johnny? Why did the mother choose her final stance? If the planet was real then what the hell did Julie do on it for over 15 years and how did she get home?
These questions didn’t occur to me while reading the book and I didn’t feel like they even needed to be asked or answered. But upon reflection, I wanted to know. I needed more to the story. I wanted more information on the planet and how Selena’s life changes after all this drama. But the book and writing itself didn’t require it. The story seemed complete. The author seems to have answered the main question of what Selena is going to do in the correct fashion. I just can’t help but wanting definitive answers for some of me questions.
When reading the race, I felt like I was missing things and that the author had clues and hints that I could maybe find if I read it again. I have unanswered questions that I would like to explore again. In the rift, it feels like the story is complete, I had all the details the author cares to give, and the narrative was clear. I didn’t miss anything in reading it and I know what I have decided is the truth. The journey towards Selena’s answer was the point. Reading it again would not necessarily give me further insight and the mystery is over for me. And that was what made it fun. It is an odd read that I don’t know if I could recommend. In fact, I am not sure I could recommend either book due to the unususal nature of them. But I do know that I will read more by Nina Allen. Arrrr!
Goodreads’ website has this to say about the novel:
Selena and Julie are sisters. As children they were closest companions, but as they grow towards maturity, a rift develops between them.
There are greater rifts, however. Julie goes missing at the age of seventeen. It will be twenty years before Selena sees her again. When Julie reappears, she tells Selena an incredible story about how she has spent time on another planet. Selena has an impossible choice to make: does she dismiss her sister as a damaged person, the victim of delusions, or believe her, and risk her own sanity in the process? Is Julie really who she says she is, and if she isn’t, what does she have to gain by claiming her sister’s identity?
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