Larissa Kenders is a musician living in a post-apocalyptic world; her lover Andrew is missing. This newly revised young adult novel is a winner, and it will be published November 10. Thank you to Blue Moon Press, Net Galley, and Adam Mawer at DigiWriting Book Marketing Agency for including me on the second spin. It was time well spent.
The problem on Earth began when the bees began to die. How can anyone grow food, flowers, or anything else if pollen can’t be transferred? And indeed, how does pollen get from one plant to another without the bees? Corporate giant Hexagon has created an alternate world, and humans are dependent upon the company for their sustenance. Nirvana is a virtual world that workers can visit, for a hefty price, on their days off. The question Larissa has, then, is whether the Andrew she sees in Nirvana is the virtual Andrew of her memories, or whether he may in fact still be living, hiding out from those that may wish him gone.
Various topics are explored, from alienation and the question of whom to trust—one that will resonate with teenage readers—as well as environmental issues such as GMOs, and more futuristic philosophical questions. Edward Snowden comes up, and why should he not, in a story in which many researchers have uploaded their brains to the Cloud so that their work will remain once they are gone?
I was one of a handful of reviewers that read the first draft of this book. I reported that it was dreadful because it lacked character development. This new and vastly improved version creates a Larissa Kenders that is believable, a character to whom we can bond. The remaining stereotypes, such as the jealous female that is our main villain, along with the preponderance of males rather than the usual fifty percent of the population, are problems that are so rife within the genres of science fiction and fantasy that it’s hard to hang the whole problem on this one writer, who has created a truly original and interesting plot .
Teachers considering its classroom use should be forewarned that there are a couple of sexual situations; the porn industry, a pet project of one of the villains, also gets multiple mentions. I should emphasize that this reviewer sees no problem with today’s teenagers reading the book, since most of them have seen far more explicit material on their own. But those that teach in school districts so conservative that the villagers bring everything but flaming torches to the school board meeting may want the information ahead of time prior to going out of pocket for a classroom set.
In revising his story, Stewart has plucked victory from the ashes; a job well done.