For those who want a sci fi time travel book that's thought-provoking, twisted, provocative, and riveting, look no further than The Obsidian Blade, by Pete Hautman (Candlewick, 2012, YA)! Join 14 year-old Tucker, a normal American teenager, as he encounters his first disko (diskos being portals that allow passage through time and space, made by an artist far in the future as entertainment) and begins a time-travelling journey. His itinerary includes alternate future realities of great strangeness, and a trip back in time to witness the Crucifixion of Christ. Share Tucker's confusion as he encounters people he's met before (like his father), strangely altered by time travelling circumstances! Watch as bizarre religious fundamentalism warps reality! Relish the intriguing asides from alien manipulators of the future!
If that sounds good, visit these other blog reviews for confirmation: The Intergalactic Academy and Leila's blog review at Kirkus. Consider the fact that Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Kirkus have all given it stars. Enjoy the book!
If it sounds doubtful, read on.
The first half of the book was fine. There was almost a folksy feel to it--like Fannie Flagg writing sci fi. The reader is gently introduced to the first disko, and it's easy to follow the first strange changes in Tucker's father when he reappears after passing through it, bringing back a girl called Lahlia who's clearly not a local. And all was still going well for me as a reader when Tucker's parents disappear, and he has to go live with his uncle. He learns to cook a bit, rides a motorcycle and crashes it, and then finds himself on the top of the World Trade Center on 9/11, in desperate need of a ladder. I was interested, intrigued...and this took me to page 132 of ARC.
And then I got confused.
I don't particularly like books that confuse me, especially when my confusion mirrors that of the main character. If I'm confused all by myself, I'm willing to blame myself and let it slide off, but when the main character (in this case, Tucker) is floundering also (with good reason, in Tucker's case), I feel rather hopeless. Especially since the time travel keeps changing things, and there seems to be no solid ground anywhere.
I'm sure there will be answers forthcoming in the next book, but in particular I find it unpleasing that I still have little clue as to the point of the mysterious girl Tucker's dad brought back from his first disko excursion, who keeps enigmatically showing up and not being all that helpful.
"You will not be welcome," Lahlia said...."They may attempt to kill you."
"Who will?" Tucker asked.
"The priests. You will know them by their yellow robes." [or their violent actions]
Tucker looked from Lahlia to the disk.
"Priests in yellow robes? So there's a church or something on the other side?"
"There is an altar atop the pyramid at the center of Romelas, the great city of the Lah Sept."
Her words made no sense." (p 141 of the ARC).
No-one in the whole book seems to know how to communicate clearly and effectively, and no one seems all that inclined to volunteer information. Which I'm sure is deliberate, but it doesn't appeal to me.
So. It's fascinating, and thought provoking (especially the parts of the story that deal with religion) and some people really like it. And I didn't mind reading it, myself...because I expected things to get less confusing, instead of more so! I might have to read the next one, just to see how it all does work out in the end.
Note on religion, for those who might be concerned: religious faith is seriously and respectfully addressed, so although some of the religious fundamentalism is repugnant, it's by no means negative toward Christianity in general.
Note on age: There's no sex, but there is some disturbing stuff. A middle grade kid could read it just fine, and would probably be less confused than me. But it felt much more YA in style than mg, so I'd go with 12 and up, as does the publisher.
(review copy received from the publisher)