RogerBW's Blog

Annex, Rich Larson 13 September 2020

2018 young adult/crossover SF, first of its series. The aliens arrived, brain-clamped all the adults, and implanted some kind of parasite in the children. Then things got bad.

This is the full novel of which Othermother was a short excerpt in the August 2018 Clarkesworld. It starts off well: Bo breaks out of the "warehouse" where he and some of the other children are housed in a drugged state, is found by Violet, and joins the Lost Boys, a gang of fellow adolescent escapees led by Wyatt. Bo's still looking for his sister Lia, in one of the other warehouses, and all the while the alien invaders are searching for him.

There's good stuff here, such as the "clamp" which puts its (adult) subjects into a virtual heaven while their bodies carry on going through the motions of life, with just enough autonomy to feed themselves occasionally, is both an interesting idea in itself and a convenient way of making sure there aren't any grown-ups around to stop the children from having adventures. The "othermothers", crude alien imitations of brain-clamped parents sent out to hunt the missing children and equipped with a range of familiar phrases, are suitably creepy. And the children are plausible: they think they're immortal and follow their charismatic leader, even when they start dying.

But somehow it never quite managed to grab me. Bo is an immigrant from Nigeria who finds he's developing superpowers; Violet is a trans girl able to self-medicate from looted pharmacies now that parental permission is a thing of the past, trying to work out what sort of person she wants to be now that she's got past that big obstacle; and Wyatt is a charismatic psychopath (as it turns out, literally, so there's the "mentally ill person as villain" trope that nobody needed to see again). But none of them ever quite came alive for me; yes, I get it, found family good, but if found family is just as hateful as genetic family what's the point?

Eh. May well work for people other than me.

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See also:
Clarkesworld 143, August 2018

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