September 15, 2013

Review: Solstice

Solstice by P.J. Hoover

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a rather improbable combination of science fiction and Greek mythology that (mostly) works.

The science fiction part is a harrowing extrapolation of current trends re: climate change--rising sea levels (at one point the protagonist, Piper, says most of Florida and parts of Louisiana are under water), tsumanis, extinction of vegetation and animal life, and extreme heat waves (here called heat bubbles). The book opens with a suspenseful, well-written scene describing the temperature reaching a danger point of over 121 degrees, and the population of Austin, Texas, including Piper and her school friends having to take shelter while a so-called "heat disperser" missile is fired. This does work, and the entire first chapter is an unsettling introduction to Piper's world.

Then we start reading about Piper's clingy, suffocating mother, and her determination to keep her daughter chained to her side even as Piper turns eighteen. Piper meets and is instantly attracted to two new boys in town, Shayne and Reese. One wonders what one plot thread has to do with the other, but don't worry--all will eventually be revealed.

Some books require a rather heavier suspension of disbelief than others. This book walked one of the highest, thinnest tightropes I have read in a long time, and it's a credit to the author's skill that she pulls it off. We find out that the Greek pantheon of gods really exists; that Shayne is Hades, King of the Underworld, and Reese is Ares, God of war--and Piper is really Persephone, Hades' wife, stolen away from the Underworld by her mother Demeter in a last-ditch, illegal attempt to bring her daughter back under her control.

(Unfortunately, this was more than a little telegraphed. Piper Snow/Persephone? Come on, P.J. I figured it out as soon as I heard Piper's last name.)

Oh, yeah--Piper's becoming human, and her mother not fulfilling her godly duties, is the reason for the Global Heating Crisis.

Talk about weighing your protagonist down with burdens. Piper has guilt over her mother, guilt over her husband, guilt over being attracted to Reese/Ares (who turns out to be a thoroughly nasty, manipulative little prick, and also an attempted rapist; I cheered Piper's blasting him with Underworld fire, even though I knew it wouldn't be fatal), and guilt over her best friend Chloe, who she saves from the Fates only to see kill herself later. This is all pretty unresolved by the end of the book; I'm assuming a sequel (if there is one) will address these problems.

I'll definitely read it. This book is unique--I haven't run across a young-adult novel quite like it--and I'm looking forward to Piper's further adventures.

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