This is a very difficult book to review. It's a sequel to Anderson's Ultraviolet, which had some nice twists. Though the cover copy suggests that Quicksilver can be read on its own, it spoils every plot twist in Ultraviolet, starting from the very first page. (I also think it would be pretty difficult to follow without having read Ultraviolet first. In fact, I found some plot points difficult to follow because it had been so long since I had read Ultraviolet.)

They're both good books. But if you have any interest in reading either, start with Ultraviolet and don't even read the premise of Quicksilver - literally everything about it is a spoiler for Ultraviolet.

I am going to do two levels of spoiler cuts. The first level will be spoilery for Ultraviolet, the second for Quicksilver.

giant Ultraviolet spoilers )

giant Quicksilver spoilers )

Ultraviolet


Quicksilver
Once upon a time there was a girl who was special.

This is not her story.

Unless you count the part where I killed her.


17-year-old Alison has an extreme form of synesthesia: her senses are interconnected to such a high degree that words and sounds have colors and scents, and so forth. After a traumatic childhood experience, she learned to hide this from the world, but as usually happens when one is forced to conceal a major part of one’s self, she ended up strange and withdrawn.

After a fight with a classmate, the classmate vanishes without a trace, and the hysterical, traumatized Alison has an apparent psychotic episode in which she screams that she disintegrated the missing girl. Recovering in the juvenile ward of a mental hospital, Alison tries to figure out if she killed Tori – with her mind or otherwise – or if she hallucinated the whole thing. And what, if anything, does her synesthesia have to do with what happened?

An inventive, intense YA novel that does unusual things with genre – so much so that it’s hard to describe without massive spoilers. The basic question is whether Alison was hallucinating, or whether something happened that would take this novel out of the mainstream and pop it into the sf/fantasy genre. Since that doesn’t become clear until about the three-fourths mark, I’ll put it below a cut.

But I think it’s not spoilery to say that the novel does not explain away the existence of mental illness or neurological differences as something magical, nor does it equate synesthesia with “being crazy” (though some characters do). I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be offended, just that I thought the treatment of those issues was reasonably sensitive and thoughtful.

The book contains a non-graphic attempted sexual assault, and a relationship with possibly disturbing power differentials – I can’t explain more than that without, again, giant spoilers.

Ultraviolet

Here come the giant spoilers! Read more... )

Overall, this was a strong, unusual novel, taking some old ideas and mashing them up until they felt new. Though you have to work hard to make me dislike a story set in a mental hospital. I love that genre.
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