Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Cydonian Pyramid by Pete Hautman

Sometimes, when I read a book and love it, but it hasn't yet been released in finished form for the general public to purchase and read, I worry. I worry that my love is misplaced, that where I see creative world-building and beautiful language and a unique story, others will see a lack of originality, purple prose, and a meandering plot. And then, of course, I'll lose all of my book-reviewing credibility. "Oh, her? She thought The Worst Book Ever was a great book. You can't trust her opinion."

Which is why, when I opened the most recent issue of Kirkus and saw a starred review for The Cydonian Pyramid, I was joyous. There was a little bit of celebrating. At least one other person thought it was excellent! I am not alone! My opinions are validated! This series hasn't made a huge splash, but I hope the Kirkus review, and my own here, will convince a few more (established or budding) science fiction fans to give it a whirl. It is truly special.

The Cydonian Pyramid actually covers the same time period that The Obsidian Blade does, but it does so from Lah Lia's point of view. Since this story involves time travel, I know that statement may be a little confusing. Basically, this sequel tells the same story from Lah Lia's perspective instead of Tucker's. I have an inherent mistrust for these kinds of stories (Wisdom's Kiss is a good example of how they can fail). Since Tucker and Lah Lia are separate for much of the story, though, it works really well here. Lah Lia's perspective (which is still third person past tense, I should add) doesn't just fill in some details; it adds completely new events we didn't get in The Obsidian Blade

More importantly, though, it makes a lot of what happened in the first book understandable. The Obsidian Blade is a confusing book. Tucker is thrown into a grand adventure full of some really weird stuff, and for the most part he has no idea what the heck is going on. That's part of the joy of reading the story. The Cydonian Pyramid clarifies those events, puts them in context, helps explain just what is going on and why. We learn about the origins of the Medicants and the Klaatu and the Lah Sept. We learn more about the diskos and how different cultures at different times use them. We learn just how Tucker's story is connected to Lah Lia's, and why they need each other. What may have seemed random in the first book is revealed to be very purposeful in the second.

Part of the reason this excites me so much is because it makes clear that the author had a plan all along. We may not have known how everything was connected initially, but he did, and he makes it apparent here. There are so many great "ah ha!" moments. Making those connections as a reader is thrilling.

I'd be remiss if I didn't also mention that Lah Lia is a great character. She is mostly an enigma in the first book, something otherworldly and not quite understandable. The Cydonian Pyramid fleshes her out, gives her motivations and fears and hopes. She starts out fairly passive and has to learn how to take a more active role in her fate. Watching her transformation is fascinating.

We do get a little bit of Tucker's perspective, but he serves mainly as a framing device. He ends up on a ship in the Arctic during the Cold War, being interrogated by the Americans on it. His short chapters are sprinkled between Lah Lia's longer ones. This gives Hautman a chance to recap some of the events of the first book as well as provide a way for Tucker and Lah Lia to eventually reconnect at the end, setting up the third installment.

Hautman's ideas are so crazy and interesting and just plain cool. I want more books that are as imaginative as this. I want more planned craziness, more books that dare to be wildly different. I want riskier speculative fiction for teens, SF that gets the heart rate up and makes you think at the same time. I want to read more books that make me say "How on Earth did the author think of that?" Luckily for me (and anyone else who finds these books), this is a trilogy. I can't wait for the third book.

Review copy provided by the publisher. The Cydonian Pyramid will be published May 14.

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