I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys post-apocalyptic fiction with a dash of science fiction.
So many Young Adult fantasy novels talk down to their audience. It is part of the reason why I don’t read much of it frankly. While I understand that I am not the target readership for these books, at the same time it is pretty easy to see when a writer feels the need to soft-pedal the content of the story because they believe that teenagers can’t handle a bit of edginess here and there. Saying all of that, I was hearing a considerable amount of chatter surrounding S.C. Flynn’s Children of the Different. I kept reading complimentary things about the book from people whose opinions I value and respect immensely. So when I was given an advance reading copy, I was extremely eager to check it out. Knowing that it was also a post-apocalyptic story taking place on the continent of Australia didn’t hurt matters either since one of my favorite post-apocalyptic series ever, Greatwinter by Sean McMullen, includes both of those elements as well. I was very intrigued and began devouring chapters not too long after getting a copy of the book in my hands.
Children of the Different opens in the wilds of Southwestern Australia and takes place nineteen years after a brain disease called The Great Madness has decimated the population of the world. The mystery of the disease and what caused it is not fleshed out at the outset of the story. I actually thought this was an effective approach by the author as it made me continually turn the pages hoping it would be revealed at some point. As a result of The Great Madness, the survivors have become scattered into settlements just outside the great city of Perth. Newly born children of these survivors upon reaching adolescence, now go through a trance-like state known as Changeland where they will emerge either with special mental powers or as crazed murdering ferals who are no better than the predatory animals that wander the surrounding countryside. There is no way to tell exactly when the Changeland transition will happen and also no way of knowing how each child will come through the ordeal. For that reason, all those who exit Changeland and gradually awaken from their comatose condition must be monitored closely for any sign of potential feral behavior. When thirteen year-old Arika enters Changeland and doesn’t return right away, her twin brother Narrah becomes concerned and somehow finds a way to follow her. Narrah soon discovers Arika as she is being pursued by an evil monster called the Anteater. They are both eventually able to escape and Arika awakens in her bed at home in the settlement not knowing how she has been affected. Will she soon become a cannibalistic beast or will she be granted the power to do great things with her mind? Arika finds out from her mother that Narrah has gone on an excursion to the city with their father to destroy one of the towers that the city people use to communicate across long distances. When he doesn’t return from the excursion, she is told that he was taken prisoner and brought to the city. She knows that she must try to find him at all costs but is still coming to terms with what happened to her in Changeland. It is at the point where she tries to escape her confinement in the settlement and go find Narrah that she begins to realize that her journey through Changeland has left her with the ability to shapeshift. Can she somehow use her newly acquired powers in some way to help save her brother? Or is he like so many taken by the city people, dead to the people of the settlement? There’s also still the possibility that she may become a feral and be cast out by her family. All of these uncertainties surround Arika as she undertakes a most dangerous rescue mission – to the Northwest coast of Australia and an abandoned military base where ferals stalk the shadows looking for innocent blood.
What a fun ride this book was. There were so many elements that I enjoyed that it is difficult to list them all. The one thing that I most admired is the fact that S.C. Flynn did not take his foot off the pedal the entire time. For large parts of the story I forgot that I was reading a YA book. He definitely does not sugarcoat the story to suit younger readers. Another aspect that I enjoyed was the uncertainty surrounding the people who lived in the city and how they were changed, if at all, by The Great Madness. These were truly villains who had a lot of depth to them and also a great sense of mystery. S.C. does a wonderful job of not revealing too much, yet giving you just enough to make you want to turn the pages rapidly. Children of the Different is not a long book either, and I found it a quick read that still left me wanting more at the end. I really hope that he is not done with this world and story because I would like to see a whole lot more. All in all I truly enjoyed Children of the Different and would recommend it to those who appreciate an author the likes of a Garth Nix, as it has some of the feel that Garth injects into his stories. I would also recommend it to anyone who enjoys post-apocalyptic fiction with a dash of science fiction. There are significant amounts of both that give the story a wider appeal than it otherwise would have. Give it a go, you won’t be disappointed.
Review by Nick Taraborrelli
8.5/10 from 1 reviews
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