Thursday, April 24, 2014

Book Review: Erasing Time by C.J. Hill

Erasing Time is not up for a Whitney Award this year, but its sequel Echo in Time is, so I'm reviewing the first book this morning and you can look for the review of the actual Whitney Award finalist this afternoon.

Eighteen-year-old Taylor and Sheridan Bradford are identical twins, but not as similar as you might think.  Taylor is a mathematical and scientific genius, graduating high school at 13 and college at 16.  Her post-graduate work in physics is on the cutting edge of what anyone has dreams possible.  Sheridan, on the other hand, wants to be an English professor and is still plodding through her senior year of high school.  When they are suddenly sucked 400 years into the future, it takes the talents and skills of both of them to survive in a completely different society.

Befriended by father and son anthropologists Jeth and Echo, who have studied their antiquated language and customs, Taylor and Sheridan learn that a lot has changed.  At the age of 11, all girls are surgically prevented from ever becoming pregnant accidentally and all children are bioengineered from the best genes of the population.  All citizens are implanted with a tracking crystal so they can always be found and controlled, and ranked according to "age, health, IQ, job status, how many friends you have, your friends' and family's rankings, and what rating other people have given you." Democracy is a governmental form of the past because "it was too hard for average people to make decisions about policies." Religion has been outlawed because it "promoted divisiveness and oppressed its followers."  And "information isn't available to the public anymore"; individuals only have access to the narrow field of data they need to perform their job duties.

Of course, there are some underground resistance organizations, the Dakine (similar to the Mafia) and the Doctor Worshippers (dedicated to keeping religion alive), and both come in to play for the twins.  And Echo has some dangerous secrets of his own relating to the death of his twin brother a month earlier at the hands of Dakine assassins.

In other words, it's very similar to just about every other dystopian future ever written.

But I've got to say that Hill keeps the action moving non-stop.  The interactions between the twins as well as their fish-out-of-water adjustments to this brave, new world are key to this story feeling fresh despite the similarities to other dystopian fiction.  I liked the insights into what our society would look like to scientists four centuries later.  Talking animals, democracy already in decline, all people were weak and obese, the nonsensical vernacular makes me wonder just how accurate our assumptions about past civilizations are.

Perhaps I shouldn't have been, but I was sincerely surprised at the big twist towards the end.  Hill does a good job instilling suspense and a sense of urgency in her characters' motivations, as well as a real quality of nobility.  She establishes early on that it isn't possible for Taylor and Sheridan to return to their own time and allows them to grieve for that loss, but they quickly conclude that they must prevent any harm that could come to others due to their presence in the future and make some tough choices accordingly.

Entertaining read and an interesting twist on the slew of dystopian futures out there right now.

Erasing Time
by C.J. Hill
ISBN: 9780062123923
Buy it from Amazon here: (hardcover, ebook)
Find it at a local independent bookseller.
Look it up on Goodreads.
Check it out at your local library (find the nearest one here).

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