December 01, 2013


by R. J. Anderson
Carolrhoda Lab
316 pp.
Ages 14+

In Ultraviolet (reviewed here), R. J. Anderson's prequel to Quicksilver, teen Alison Jeffries had been hospitalized in a youth psych facility and receiving treatment after claiming to see a fellow student, Tori Beaugrand, disintegrate.  Though others saw her as acting out and a potential head case, Sebastian Faraday, who'd claimed to be a neuropsychologist, recognized Alison as a synesthete for whom the interconnectedness of her senses was overwhelming.  Moreover, Tori had disintegrated, when a relay (connecting to her embedded transmitter) transported her to a different world, from which both she and Faraday had come originally, and back to the experimentation of Mathis.  Ultraviolet ends with Alison and Faraday admitting that they cared for each other but Faraday staying behind to help Alison and Tori escape back to earth.

As Ultraviolet was primarily Alison's story, albeit contingent on Tori's existence, Quicksilver focuses on Tori and the need to keep her safe from those who would choose to study her "genetics".  Even with a change of name and appearance and a move far from Sudbury for Tori and her parents (who'd always known her history), trusting and staying inconspicuous are difficult.  This is especially so when Milo, a workmate of Tori's, witnesses Faraday's materializing into Tori's bedroom.  By concocting a scenario about an unethical company, Meridian, from which both Faraday and Tori are hiding, Faraday is able to enlist Milo's help in keeping Tori safe, and in helping to find the means to destroy the relay. Sadly but characteristically, there are the recurring misinterpretations of feelings, by Milo, Alison, Tori and others, as they attempt to understand new relationships. 

With layer upon layer of lies, coupled with the otherworldly truths regarding Faraday and Tori, Quicksilver becomes as complicated as Faraday and Tori's attempts to prevent Mathis from controlling them via the relay and its quicksilver, a programmable material.  Refreshingly R. J. Anderson keeps her characters from early success, choosing instead to demonstrate the need for creative thinking and perseverance.  Fans of engineering and inventions will love Tori's mechanical exploits, especially as she needs to use Milo as the male cover for her brilliance (apparently uncharacteristic of females).  And, if scientific intricacies and physics are not your strengths, then perhaps the schemes by which Tori, Faraday and Milo go to protect those for whom they care will have you considering their choices as effective or subterfuge.   Even the most brilliant of them aren't sure how to handle love and its often undecipherable messages. Regardless, Quicksilver has sophisticated plotting at its core, a prerequisite for complex speculative fiction.  Whether it be faeries or physics, R. J. Anderson has no qualms about synthesizing a tight weave of emotions, science and interpretation into a durable and unique story-telling fabric.

Look for my interview with author R. J. Anderson tomorrow, to commemorate the launch of her highly successful UK version of her Faery Rebels' series. 

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