Tuesday, October 23, 2012

For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund

Please don't fret about the sparkly, pale girl on the cover. I know you've seen a lot of them lately. I don't think this looks much like the book's heroine as described.

And if I tell you this is a post-apocalyptic tale, please don't fret about that either. This apocalypse happened a long, long time ago.

In that long, long time ago in For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund (HarperCollins - Balzer+Bray), genetic engineering got out of hand. People were modified. And somehow, things mutated and changed, as they do, and people were Reduced. A few, the Luddites, rejected the technology and hid themselves away, and later took it upon themselves to protect the Reduced, the people who could then only speak a few words, pantomime a few rudimentary signs, hardly take care of themselves. In the past few generations, there is something new: the children of the Reduced are as aware of the world and intelligent as the Luddites. And now, they want a new life.

Elliot is the youngest daughter living on the North estate, and her childhood friends were a Reduced girl, Ro, and Kai, who is definitely not Reduced, but one of the Children of the Reduced, who call themselves Post-Reductionist. Each orbits a different class sphere, but the three are fast friends until the day when Kai leaves to join an enclave of free people, and Elliot...doesn't. She couldn't; no one else in her family cares enough about the people of the estate, or the running of the land, to ensure that there is enough for everyone. And Elliot, the one who stayed behind and broke her own heart, must struggle with what she knows as a Luddite--science and innovation tore the world apart--and what she knows as a person, that her own inventions could help everyone.

I had forgotten that this is a retelling of Persuasion, but I recognized the bones of so many favorite romances--girl's family is messing up the finances, girl is in odd position of trying to save the farm despite everything, girl has to negotiate class boundaries. But even if you haven't read Persuasion, and I'm not entirely certain I have (Austen mostly blurs together in my head), there's really fantastic worldbuilding, including some truly frightening implications about a world where very few have autonomy over themselves due to intellect. The last bit makes for rough reading at times, but despite some uncomfortable moments, I couldn't put the book down.

This book is nominated in the YA SF/F category for the 2012 Cybils. I had my own copy to read and review.

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