The group were getting ready to go on a Wrecking when Arika’s Changing started.
Narrah heard the strangled choke in Arika’s throat and spun around. Arika was lying on the wooden floor of the hut, her limbs tense. Her green eyes turned up in her head and then closed. Narrah gulped. His mouth was dry and his heart was racing as he watched his twin sister turn pale and shiver like rippling water. Her little face looked very fragile under her black shoulder-length hair. The water lily drawn in dots of white clay paint that curved around her left eye from forehead to cheekbone twisted and jumped. Narrah had painted the lily on his sister’s face with his fingers just yesterday. How long ago that seemed now.
‘It’s started,’ Manya, the twin’s foster-mother said. ‘It is time.’
– Children of the Different, S.C. Flynn
Ok, a couple of things:
1) Apologies to S.C. Flynn. I was asked to review this book as an ARC, and I said yes.
I then completely failed to do this in any sort of reasonable time frame.
So my sincere apologies.
2) I actually forgot the main reason I said ‘yes’ to this review in the first place – which is the awesome cover! The version I’ve posted is animated, and is cool as hell.
(You might recognise the style as Eric Nyquist who also did a version of Vandermeer’s Southern Reach series).
Onto the review.
Children of the Different: 3 of 5 stars
Nineteen years ago, a brain disease known as the Great Madness killed most of the world’s population. The survivors all had something different about their minds. Now, at the start of adolescence, their children enter a trance-like state known as the Changeland and emerge either with special mental powers or as cannibalistic Ferals.
In the great forest of South West Western Australia, thirteen-year-old Arika and her twin brother Narrah go through the Changeland. They encounter an enemy known as the Anteater who feeds on human life. He exists both in the Changeland and in the outside world, and he wants the twins dead.
After their Changings, the twins have powers that let them fight their enemy and face their destiny on a long journey to an abandoned American military base on the north-west coast of Australia…if they can reach it before time runs out.
– goodreads summary, Children of the Different
It’s worth noting at the beginning that Children of the Different is a self-published book. Whilst many self-pubbed books catch easy criticism for being incomplete or raw, I’m happy to say that the author has clearly taken the time and effort to produce a polished and finished product. The main characters – the twins Arika and Narrah – are believable and sympathetic, interesting and well rounded. The writing is professional and clear. It’s on par with YA novels that are traditionally published.
Children of the Different is a solidly written dystopian YA story (are there any other kiind?) that does a fantastic job world-building a post-apocalyptic/fantasy reality, that an ending that I felt was a little abrupt and ultimately didn’t quite ring true with the promise laid down by the the earlier story.
Excellent set up, but loses a few points on the dismount. Still, bronze medal at least.
The world building was what really grabbed me – it is truly creative/imaginative even though relying on a few established tropes.
We have the world-destroying disease and the creation of a zombie-equivalent (Ferals) – both staples of post-apocalyptic dystopian fiction. We also have a societal split, with those wanting to revert to a traditional hunter-gatherer lifestyle and city people those who want to bring back the glory of scientific achievement. These are established tropes of the genre, but tropes are fine provided the author brings something new to the party – and where the Children of the Different really shines is in the introduction of the Change and the Changeland.
Children of the survivors go through ‘the change’ a process which mentally thrusts each youth into the Changeland – a dramatic and dreamlike reality – and come out of this trance state with special powers – or as psycho ferals. The variety of powers available does not appear limited, although i would suggest most of them are mental in nature (so no-one in the book comes out with super-strength for example). In the main these powers are done well – Arika’s powers particularly drive the first half of the book and are varied and interesting. Later on, I felt that Narrah’s powers (that come much later in the book) were a bit less satisfying, and a bit more convenient from a plot perspective? I don’t know, maybe I’m being too tough here.
In any case, the time spent in the Changelands are easily the highlights of the book, its dramatic and imaginative, all the more for presence the Changeland villain, the Echidna.
If anyone had suggested that an echidna (pictured) could successfully be recast into a genuinely creepy villain, I would have laughed. But Flynn’s villain in the Changelands had real presence, and cast a nicely threatening atmosphere over the time spent there.
I felt the book rushed a bit towards the end, didn’t make full use of the Changelands and kind of squandered the real-world villain. Nothing here was unforgivable, but I did walk away at the end vaguely unsatisfied. There was so much promise in the concept that I felt it needed more. Maybe it needs a sequel 🙂
I should say that I finish many YA stories a little unsatisfied, so these problems could be entirely on me.
I think that this was a solid read with a great premise, and if you are interested in a different kind of YA novel you should give this one a chance.
Let me know if/when you’ve read it and let me know what you think! Do you agree? Disagree?