The Obsidian Blade by Pete Hautman
This is the dazzling first book in a new trilogy by veteran author, Hautman. It is the story of Tucker, a teen boy from Hopewell, Minnesota who sees his minister father suddenly disappear into a disk that hangs in mid-air. His father returns an hour later, changed. He looks older, his clothes are worn, and his feet are covered in odd blue boots. But the most significant change is that he no longer believes in God. After his father returns, Tucker’s mother begins a slow descent into madness. She stops cooking, stops getting dressed, and her hair turns from red to pure white. Tucker longs to return to the days when his family was not falling apart, but before he can even begin to hope for that, his father disappears with his mother. Tucker knows they have both entered the disk again, looking for a cure for her. This book blends family relationships, technology, time travel and religion into one intoxicating mixture that is impossible to sip slowly.
This book would definitely be categorized as science fiction, but that definition does not fit quite so easily here. With its detailed look at modern life and families, the audacity with which it explores faith and religion, and the wrenching take on modern technologies, this book is far more than that narrow genre might imply. Hautman has created a work that transcends simple definition, reaching quickly beyond them.
Hautman whirls readers through time, creating places that read like Narnia, others that seem more like an Indiana Jones film, and then slows down to take in the crucifixion. It is a trip through our shared past and future, dancing back and forth across the line until the reader is unsure which is which. Hautman excels at asking impertinent questions, taking great risks, and exploring the lines that teens themselves like to toy with.
The book is beautifully written. The character of Tucker is well done, though others may need time in the upcoming books to come more fully to life. The book is plotted tightly, picking up pace until by the end, you simply cannot read fast enough to figure things out. And the final trick is the end of this first book, which is just like stepping through a diskos of your own.
A triumph of a first book in a series, this reminds me strongly of the wonder of Chaos Walking by Patrick Ness. I’d suggest getting it into the hands of teens who enjoyed that series which had the same complexity both in terms of storyline and ethics. Appropriate for ages 14-17.
Reviewed from ARC received from Candlewick Press.