Ready for a challenging read that pays dividends in the end? Today, I’m looking at a YA-science fiction-dystopian-futuristic hybrid that will kind of make your head explode but then pulls it back together again like you’re Humpty Dumpty: The Highest Frontier, by Joan Slonczewski. Want to win a copy? Read on…
THE OFFICIAL BLURB: One of the most respected writers of hard SF, it has been more than ten years since Joan Slonczewski’s last novel. Now she returns with a spectacular tour de force of the college of the future, in orbit. Jennifer Ramos Kennedy, a girl from a rich and politically influential family (a distant relation descended from the famous Kennedy clan), whose twin brother has died in an accident and left her bereft, is about to enter her freshman year at Frontera College.
Frontera is an exciting school built with media money, and a bit from tribal casinos too, dedicated to educating the best and brightest of this future world. We accompany Jenny as she proceeds through her early days at school, encountering surprises and wonders and some unpleasant problems. The Earth is altered by global warming, and an invasive alien species called ultraphytes threatens the surviving ecosystem. Jenny is being raised for great things, but while she’s in school she just wants to do her homework, go on a few dates, and get by. The world that Jenny is living in is one of the most fascinating and creative in contemporary SF, and the problems Jenny faces will involve every reader, young and old.
MY THOUGHTS: So, on the surface this is a coming-of-age tale as Jenny heads off to college. Of course campus is in space, and you get there by climbing towers of anthrax, and there’s the inevitable alien roommate, and potential for space station disaster. And of course everyone’s out to get you. You know, college stuff.
Joan Slonczewski is a new author for me, so my only expectation (read: fear) was that, as a microbiologist, she’d be writing such hard science I couldn’t get into it. Fortunately, she doesn’t neglect the character-building aspects of her story. Jenny is likeable and sympathetic as our heroine.
But the worldbuilding is where The Highest Frontier shines for me. There’s the whole ecological disaster that’s made big swaths of Earth uninhabitable (and the habitable parts are downright challenging). There are alien lifeforms that seem bent on eliminating those pesky humans. The “taxplayers” and casinos pay for government programs, and the kids even have a Quidditch equivalent in Slanball.
This isn’t a fast read, it’s certainly not a mindless escape of a read, but it is a satisfying read, especially if you like complex dystopian worlds with a few aliens thrown in.
THE GIVEAWAY: Want to win a copy of The Highest Frontier? Tell me your favorite alien book or movie. I’m a big fan of “Independence Day”! You know the routine: +1 for comment, +1 for blog follow, +1 for Twitter follow @Suzanne_Johnson, and +1 for Tweet or Retweet or a like on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/Suzanne.Johnson.author.