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WesternSFA


The Song of the Orphans
by Daniel Price
Blue Rider Press, $30.00, 738 pp
Published: July 2017

This is the sequel to Flight of the Silvers, click here for a review of that story.  Flight was a wonderful book and Song is even better.

In Flight of the Silvers, a small group of humans from San Diego are snatched up by mysterious people who attached a silver bracelet to their wrist just in time to escape the world’s destruction.  They are transported to a parallel Earth where they discover they now have fantastic abilities related to controlling time.  They end up on the run, not knowing who to trust or why this has happened to them.

The ensemble cast did cause me some effort to distinguish each of them; and that multiplied when the Silvers run afoul of the locals who also have the same fantastic abilities.  But the locals, dubbed Gothams, have become convinced that the Silvers are going to bring down the same destruction on their planet unless every last Silver is killed.  Their attempts to murder the Silvers gets the attention of the Pelletiers, those mysterious benefactors who saved the Silvers.  But ‘benefactor’ isn’t really what they are.

So, we have the Givens sisters, Hannah and Amanda, of whom we have lots of hints that they are pivotal to the success of their “mission”.  Hannah can slow time and move faster than normal people.  Amanda can project a powerful force which tests her resolve when her emotions cause the power to destroy more than it helps.  Amanda was briefly involved with Zach, a cartoonist from NY, who can either advance or reverse time; a handy healing skill when you can just reverse damage but an almighty nasty power when used to hurt.  Amanda and Zach have been forbidden to have a relationship as it doesn’t seem to fit in with the Pelletiers’ plans.  Mia is a shy teenager with low self-esteem who becomes a little sister to the group.  Her personal growth has been a strong storyline.  She can open tiny time portals from which she gets warnings or advice from her future selves.  The problem is that her future selves are quite angry and vicious and their advice is suspect.  The reason for their anger is finally revealed during a pivotal encounter with one of the Pelletiers.  David is a worldly sixteen-year-old who seems to be the one with the least moral compunctions against hurting someone; particularly those who threaten their little group.  David can project images from the past and sometimes turn himself invisible.  Theo is the heart of the group, the most broken of them all but with the awesome power to foresee the future.  The group discovers that the world they are now inhabiting is doomed to the same fate as theirs in four years time.  Theo is sure that he can find a future where that doesn’t occur;  he just has to find the right ‘string’ and figure out what has to be done to make that future the real one.  While on the run in the first book, the group is driven to find a man named Peter whom Mia’s later selves assure them will be their savior.  Peter has a history with the Gothams that almost tears apart the group.

The Pelletiers number three:  Semerjean, the patriarch, his wife, Esis, who is more than a little unhinged, and their still-mysterious son, Azrael.  In the first book, they appear to be a bit on the guardian-angel side, protecting the Silvers.  They come from an unimaginably far future earth and everything that happens to the Silvers and the Gothams are because they intended it.  In the second book they become a lot more scary and threatening as everything they planned and schemed for starts to fall apart; mostly because humans just can’t be depended upon to do the logical thing.  The question the Silvers have to answer is whether they and the Pelletiers are fighting for the same thing.

The second book brings in more characters from the native Gothams; those who have the same powers as the Silvers.  The Silvers have a lot to handle in trying to convince the Gotham leaders – who are more than a little crazy – that killing them won’t save their world.  Combining their powers might the only key to finding a future where everyone lives.  But trying to find common ground and trust is complicated by the Pelletiers’ meddling and it’s impossible to figure out if the Pelletiers want the two groups to collaborate or if they want them to murder each other.  The body count rises in this second book.

And rounding out the ensemble is a native human, a policewoman named Melissa.  Melissa works for the equivalent of the CIA which is determined to find and confine all these aliens with the freaky powers – or kill them, if necessary.  Melissa and her shadowy mentor have something different in mind – they want to protect the Silvers even though they don’t fully understand their origins and mission.  The Silvers also discover they were not the only group from their Earth that the Pelletiers saved.  They are joined by two from New York, the only survivors of the Gold group after the Gothams found and murdered most of them.  One of the two is an autistic teenager who has the same power as Amanda and uses it to create fearsome temporal wolves to protect himself.  But all he really wants to do is recreate all the Beatles’ music for a world that never had them.  And it’s this non-temporal skill that eventually shows the Silvers a way to unite all those who have powers and combine their skills to find that future ‘string’ where everyone lives – and the genesis of the book’s title.  And I almost forgot the most mysterious one of all:  a young woman who appears to have similar powers and abilities as the Pelletiers and may be their adversary.  But if the Pelletiers and the Silvers both want the same thing, then who is she and what does she want?

 The author needed every single one of the 738 pages to encompass this epic.  The cast of characters is larger than most authors could competently handle but Price does better than that – every one of them is wholly realized, every one of them is interesting and compelling.  Oh, and did I tell you…one of them is a Pelletier masquerading. The plot is fairly simple:  save the world.  It’s the characters that drive the story.  There’s no one amazing messianic leader who will do the deed; it’s too big for that.  To save the world takes everyone.  It was a long two years waiting for this book but it was worth it.  Now we have to wait for the third and final installment.  And I’m thinking that in about ten years I’ll be very ready to cozy up with all three for a grand re-read.  If you need a break from the all-pervasive fantasy diet of your local bookstore, I can recommend this science fiction epic most highly.  ~~ Catherine Book

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