The Obsidian Blade: Reviews
February 15, 2012
Vivid imagination and deft storytelling make for refreshing speculative fiction in this time-travel tale.
Tucker Feye is an ordinary teenage boy, leading an ordinary, near-idyllic small-town American life—but that's before he starts seeing the "disks." Once the mysterious shimmering phenomena appear, Tucker's preacher father vanishes, then returns with a strange teenage girl and without his faith; Tucker's mother loses her sanity, and eventually both parents disappear. After moving in with his (previously unknown) Uncle Kosh, the really weird stuff starts happening. However, after a riveting opening scene the narrative seems to slow to a crawl, but the thorough characterization and careful worldbuilding pay off spectacularly once Tucker discovers that the disks are gateways through time and space. Hautman doesn't make things easy for his readers: As Tucker bounces through historical crisis points past and future, short chapters and steadily ratcheting stakes present life-threatening situations and bizarre personages at a dizzying pace (most of them already-familiar characters with new names or under different guises), That this remains intriguing rather than confusing is a credit to the sure-handed plotting and crisp prose, equally adept with flashes of snarky wit and uncomfortable questions of faith, identity, and destiny. Less satisfying are the climactic cliffhangers, which reveal that the entire story is but a set-up for the rest of the series.
Part science fiction, part adventure, part mystery, but every bit engrossing; be sure to start the hold list for the sequel. (Science fiction. 12 & up)
February 15, 2012
Hautman, one of YA literature’s most versatile authors, opens a new sci-fi trilogy in this story of Tucker Feye, son of a small-town Minnesota preacher. After a quick prologue that explains how a future race of sorta humans constructed a series of “diskos” to travel in time and witness important moments in “an ancient and largely discredited discipline once known as History,” we return to the present day as Tucker Feye begins noticing shimmering diskos hovering in the air. Hoping to find his missing parents, he steps through one and is wormholed through time, skipping around as far back as Jesus’ crucifixion at Golgotha and forward through multiple civilizations and even to the vanishing point of humanity, with serious reverberations felt among all points along the way. Hautman isn’t afraid to tackle massive complexities—how faith in God can be either demolished or cemented by witnessing the death of his “son,” the inherent paradoxes of time travel, the possible ramifications of our digital revolution—in rapid succession and with crystal clarity. And while it would be easy enough to coast on the killer premise, he makes sure to carefully craft his characters and construct a tight-fitting plot for them to shoot around in before toying with readers’ heads. This fast-paced opener to the Klaatu Diskos trilogy will satiate adventure seekers, and the refined brain candy will be delicious to more thoughtful readers. If anything, there simply isn’t enough of everything, but it’s hard to fault a book for being too tantalizing.
HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Hautman’s written sci-fi before, but the many fans he’s picked up from recent gems like The Big Crunch (2011) and the National Book Award–winning Godless (2004) give this series the potential to be a blockbuster. — Ian Chipman
February 27, 2012
In this thrilling first volume of the Klaatu Diskos trilogy, 13-year-old Tucker Feye’s ordinary life in smalltown Minnesota changes dramatically when his father, a preacher, disappears through a mysterious disk near the roof of their house. He reappears an hour later, without his religious faith, but with Lahlia, an awkward young woman who he claims is from Bulgaria. When, a year later, Tucker’s parents both vanish, he sets out to find them, aided by Lahlia and his biker uncle, Kosh. Tucker discovers that the “diskos,” which were created by a noncorporeal artist from the distant future, allow travel between time and place. The result is a whirlwind tour of some unpleasant societies and moments in human history, some of which (such as the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers) are jaw-dropping—this might be Hautman’s most daring book yet. Throughout, Hautman (The Big Crunch) raises significant issues concerning family, faith, and destiny. Well-developed and complex characters, a fascinating time travel framework (including dispatches from the far future), and a heart-stopping conclusion will leave readers looking forward to the next book. Ages 12–up. Agent: Jennifer Flannery, Flannery Literary. (Apr.)
The Horn Book
Time and space are refracted again and again through mysterious portals in Hautman’s intricately layered universe. Created as an entertainment in a far distant future by a “discorporeal Klaatu artist,” diskos are windows to “interesting times” in human history. Because the Klaatu are fascinated by “the horrific, the irreversible,” many diskos lead to sites of great destruction—an erupting volcano, Auschwitz, the Twin Towers. When discovered, either intentionally or accidentally, the diskos also transport physical beings, causing both personal danger to the travelers and potential disturbances in time. In rural Hopewell County, Minnesota, thirteen-year-old Tucker sees his father, Reverend Feye, fall off the roof and disappear mid-air, where a shimmering circle appears. The reverend returns an hour later looking battered and aged, accompanied by a strange, pale girl named Lahlia, and no longer believing in God. Tucker worries as both his parents behave more and more strangely; then one day they disappear. Convinced they went through the circle in the air, Tucker goes through to look for them, thus beginning his dangerous journey through the millennia. The first of a planned trilogy plants Tucker and his family in a religious and ideological battle across time, hinting at intriguing developments to come. Grounded in historical events, Hautman’s novel projects our own “interesting times” into an even more frightening yet fascinating future. —Lauren Adams