Six ordinary people survive the end of the world. They are visited by three ethereal beings and given a silver bracelet. Moments before the sky collapses on them, they are surrounded by protective bubbles and have to watch everything and everyone they care about disappear. When the dust settles, they find themselves on an alternate Earth, one where the discovery of a new elements has changed the way people live. Time and space can be manipulated. Cars fly and food can be freshened by a household appliance. There are machines that can reverse near fatal wounds and suits that allow the wearer to travel at twenty times the normal speed.
I could list the wonders of this new world for a while, but I’d rather let you discover them for yourself when you read the book. You should read this book!
Each traveller is collected and brought to a facility where they will spend time adjusting to the facts. This is when we get to know our cast of characters. We have David, the young and frighteningly intelligent Australian. Mia, barely more than a girl, who seems rather meek, but extremely compassionate. Zach, the artist. He’s smart, too. They all are. He’s also very observant. Theo is a bit of a mystery at first. He’s quite a bit more to the group than the token Asian. Then we have the sisters Given, Hannah and Amanda. Hannah is busty and gutsy. She quickly befriends each member of the group – the male members of the group. Her sister is more intense. Amanda is all about control. She takes Mia under her wing.
Nine silver bracelets were issued to the group, which will be referred to throughout the novel as the Silvers. Two of the other travellers suffer accidents of transport and circumstance and one slips away to mess with his fellows. He’s a serial nutcase. (Bit of an inside joke there. Read the book and you’ll get it.)
While at the facility, our ordinary travellers begin to develop extraordinary abilities. They’re easily explained. The alternate Earth has been manipulating time and matter for close to a century but machines are required. People can’t run twenty times as fast or punch through walls, reverse an overripe banana to an edible state, see ghosts, send notes through portals or predict the future. Not outside of urban myth, anyway. Even on this alternate Earth, not all is as it seems.
There is little rest for the weary as the Silvers are forced to take flight. They have questions, big and small. Where did their abilities come from and why do they have them? What happened to their world? Why were they chosen? Who were the three eerily beautiful strangers? What happened to those they left behind? Who is trying to kill them? Who is helping them? What awaits them in Brooklyn, New York?
Some of these questions are answered during their cross country run, but more are raised. The Silvers struggle to come to terms with their extraordinary abilities and with each other. They squabble like siblings and the two sisters almost seem to revel in their rivalry. Loyalties clash and divide and blood is spilled. There are moments when no one knows who to trust, amongst themselves or even themselves. Leaps of courage and faith are required, which bring out the humanity in these extraordinary characters.
If you couldn’t tell already, I loved ‘The Flight of the Silvers’. I found it very difficult to put it aside to deal with my own life and by the time I got to the four-hundredth page, I simply gave up trying. I informed the family that I would return about then and cuddled up on the couch with the final third of the book.
The best thing about the novel, what keeps the pages turning, is that the reader has as little idea what is going on as the characters do. The only way to solve the mystery is to keep reading. Thankfully, that is easy to do. The story is really different and imaginative. The characters are distinct. They develop over the course of events, as they adapt to their abilities and circumstances.
The writing is great. There is some interesting word use, otherwise the narrative is so fluent that it supports the story invisibly. I love it when that happens. The omniscient pov takes a while to get used to. It works for the book, though. If we got any deeper into any individual heads than passing thoughts, it would become too much that character’s story. A final note on the writing: I admired the way the author managed to portray villainous characters without resorting to crude language. Instead, Daniel Price exposes their evil intent through carefully chosen dialogue and nefarious deeds.
The speculative elements are seamlessly integrated. The setting is Science Fiction/alternate reality, but it doesn’t read that way. The world they end up in operates very differently, but there are enough familiar elements that you don’t feel as if you’re trying to learn a new culture. Alternate America is more interesting than distracting. Also, the story is a mystery, a really deep and twisty one. I honestly had no idea what was going to happen. Half-way in, I had enough information to make a few predictions, but I wasn’t confident in any of them. For all I knew, everyone was going to die…and the amazing and scary part was that that would have been an acceptable ending. It would have worked.
It really is an amazing book. I’m thrilled to be able to write such a positive review so early in the year. Perhaps it’s a harbinger of good things to come. Meanwhile, I’ll be looking forward to the next instalment, even if it is another six hundred pages that entices me to abandon my family all over again.
Written for SFCrowsnest.