Here’s a first for the blog–I’m writing up a book that isn’t generally available yet. Michael Offutt’s debut novel, Slipstream, doesn’t publish until May. Michael and I, however, are Twitter friends and keep up with each other’s writing so he sent me an advanced copy to check out.
I’m glad he did because I loved it.
Slipstream focuses on brother and sister Jordan and Kathy Pendragon who live in Salt Lake City. After a car accident, Jordan, a star hockey player on his high school team, starts to exhibit a strange power–it appears as though he can manipulate time and he sees things that look like they’re from this world, except their not. He’s also being followed by a young British guy. Turns out the British guy, Kolin, is from an alternate Earth (called Avalon), a place that was devastated in 1945 when the first atomic bomb was detonated on Earth. Avalon was saved from complete devistation by an artificial intelligence, which rebuilt civilization giving what remained of the population a safe place to live. Jordan and his sister, along with Kolin, end up on Avalon where Jordan finds out its his destiny to fix the AI’s insanity and that he’s got more work to do to ensure the continued existence of the sister worlds.
Michael builds both of his worlds with rich detail. Of course, we know what present day Earth is like, but Avalon is a strange, vicious and overpopulated and he gives us all of the amazing, and sometimes horrific, insight. I envisioned something between Blade Runner, The Running Man and The Matrix with a little bit of Tron. The characters, however, are the core of what makes this book work. Jordan is a typical teenager in some moments and at others supersmart guy spouting off physics (I’m happy I watch the The Big Bang Theory because I could reference that I’d heard some of it before). He’s also a good hockey player and, of course, what’s not to like about a hockey player in a book, especially when the hockey he ends up playing is on the ultra-violent and possibly deadly variety. Kathy is also quite something. Initially she came off as the ditzy, but caring, sister. She quickly evolved in the parallel world to quite the badass. Kolin is another great character as he goes from protector of these two to falling head over heels in love. You can’t help but to root for these people.
It’s hard to write too much about Slipstream because it wouldn’t be fair to give too much away. What makes this book a tremendous read is not knowing where it’s going. There are twists from start to finish and, thankfully, they all make sense inside the story. With all the plot threads he introduces, Michael manages to not lose track of anything. I’ll admit, I don’t like all the choices the characters made, but to show flawed people the characters do need to make mistakes so there’s no fault in that.
There is a line at the end of the book that I found quite profound, and oh so true in the world we live in today: “It’s difficult to distinguish the voice of the Creator from the falsehoods told by man.” Sci-fi often casts a light on the issues facing the world and this is a great example.
Slipstream is the first part of the A Crisis of Two Worlds series. I’m looking forward to reading part two because I need to know what becomes of Jordan, Kathy, Kolin and the others working to solve the crisis.
You can keep track of the Slipstream release on its Goodreads page. If you like sci-fi/parallel worlds stories, keep an eye out for this book and give it a read when it comes out.