Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Split Infinity by Thalia Kalkipsakis

Split Infinity by Thalia Kalkipsakis is the second book in the Lifespan of Starlight trilogy, following on from book 1, Lifespan of Starlight, which I read and reviewed recently. I really enjoyed this sequel, and it made me realise that the only reason I didn't give Lifespan of Starlight 5 stars (I gave it 4.5) is because reading bad goodreads reviews before reading the book had me anticipating it taking a turn for the crappy, which it didn't. Split Infinity continued on in the same trope-avoiding way as the first book. Oh, also, the blurb and this review contain MAJOR SPOILERS for the first book.

A split-second decision, a single time-skip. The world that you know, gone in a blink.

Now a sharp and adept time-skipper, Scout jumps years ahead to find the world transformed. Technology has accelerated and the people she knows have grown up, or disappeared. Most pressing, the government that she was trying to escape has used the time to prepare for the return of the time skippers. Caught between finding the mother she left behind and time-skipping ahead with Mason, a series of events lead Scout deeper into the tunnel than ever before.

The only way out is by the strength of her love and the power of her mind. The illusion of time has one more surprise, one with the power to change everything.

As you probably gathered from my preamble, I enjoyed this book a lot. One of my favourite things about it is that Scout, the main character, is pretty smart and doesn't make stupid decisions for no better reason than to further the plot (a YA pet peeve of mine). In fact, whenever I thought "she should do blah" to solve whatever problem she was facing, she generally did or did something even more clever. That's not to say that the book was predictable, just that obvious smart courses of action weren't conveniently ignored by the protagonist.

I mentioned in my review of the first book that I didn't think the government quite counted as dystopian because almost everyone (who wasn't in Scout's position) was basically doing OK. In this book, which is mostly set a bit further in the future than we see in the first book, the repressiveness of the government took a turn for the worse and definitely feels more dystopian. Whether or not Scout (and friends) will be directly addressing that beyond just trying to keep themselves safe is unclear. Although it's more dystopian than the first book, it's not following the obvious beats of a YA dystopia (yet — I suppose the third book could change that).

On the topic of not following obvious beats, there were a few time travel beats that I thought this second book might end on and to be honest, until the very end I kind of wanted it to end that way. But once the end game was playing out, it became clear that the book wasn't going to end quite the way I expected. There is another cliff hanger, though (that bit I did expect).

In my review of the first book I didn't talk much about time travel because I didn't want to give that aspect of the story away. This second volume is very much more of a time travel narrative, so I think it should be mentioned. One of the things that I think makes this series so successfully compelling is that it took two unrelated, solid ideas — everyone being chipped and time travel — and combined them to make a story greater than the sum of its parts. It helps that the portrayal of being chipped is done in a relatively fresh way (like when Scout has trouble crossing the road without a chip), and that the method of time travel is novel and both constrained (jumping forward, not moving from where you were and arriving naked) and liberal (anyone can learn to do it).

Finally, Scout has a very close relationship with her mother, which doesn't change when the whole time travel thing starts. Scout's mother isn't conveniently out of the way or kidnapped, does worry about her, and is a motivator for Scout to do various things. Her mother's strong presence is balanced by the fact that Scout has a lot of freedom, especially for a 14 or 15 year old, but I appreciate her not being orphaned or neglected from the outset.

To reiterate, I enjoyed Split Infinity a lot and would whole-heartedly recommend it and the first book to fans of character-driven YA and science fiction. Although there is a romantic element in the books, it was actually stronger in the first book than the second, and isn't very prominent overall (and wow did I appreciate the fact that Scout didn't do anything to stupid for cute boys). I am eagerly awaiting the last book in the series, alas I think I'll be waiting about a year to read it.

5 / 5 stars

First published: May 2016, Hardie Grant Egmont
Series: Lifespan of Starlight book 2 of 3
Format read: Paper!
Source: Purchased (from Big W...)
Challenges: Australian Women Writers ChallengeAussie Science Fiction Reading Challenge

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