Cybernation by Erica Blaney

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Cybernation by Erica Blaney

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: An enjoyable fantasy adventure with underlying themes of environmentalism and the dangers of unethical science. There is a lot of highly satisfactory world-building and two attractive central characters. The book's cover looks more appropriate to an older audience than the book is actually suited to.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: April 2008
Publisher: Hodder Children's Books
ISBN: 0340950323

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Solly and Lalune live on Clandoi, a frozen planet without sun or stars. Legend has it that before the ice came you could see the heavens, but legend only exists for the Wayfarers, Clandoi's lowest caste. For the Appaloosians, history does not exist. Each day imprints itself over the previous one and begins time anew. Solly is a Wayfarer, while Lalune is an Appaloosian. They are as close as two friends can be, although their relationship is frowned upon by Lalune's mother and the Appaloosian hierarchy. But they are inextricably linked in an ancient Wayfarer prophecy about the Key of Being. Solly is the sun boy and Lalune is the moon girl, and together they will save Clandoi from its icy starvation.

But with Lalune and her family cryogenically frozen in the sinister Cyberclinic and Solly's parents taken away by the Appaloosian Huissier guards, their chances of finding the Key of Being look increasingly slim...

I rather enjoyed Cybernation. It's a fun read with plenty of worldbuilding and it ticks all the right boxes. It makes use of all the familiar tropes - there's a picaresque hero, a quest, a familiar spirit, little bits of magic worked into a little bit of future-dystopia sci-fi, a mage - and even a rather marvellous talking mushroom who has an even more marvellous equivalent of a magic carpet; a fungi airship. I want one of those!

Solly and Lalune spend most of the book apart - she trapped in the organ-harvesting and pseudo cryogenic facility Cyberclinic and he in the snowy wastes of an environmentally devastated world, in search of a magic artefact. However, the strength of the bond between them is always apparent and is tremendously touching. And the cast of supporting characters is also fully-fleshed, from Sunguide, the rather singleminded mushroom and Toayev, Lalune's snobbish and social climbing mother, through to Aube, the benign and slightly eccentric sage.

It's all great fun and pitched, I would say, at readers of late primary and early secondary age, particularly those who like their fantasy stories to be of familiar form. Cybernation isn't a particularly original book, but it is all nicely done and its underlying themes of genetics and environmentalism lend it a contemporary feel. The cover design feels slightly odd - at first glance you'd think its fluorsescent green and black would appeal to a more sophisticated teen audience. Something with a more accustomed fantasy feel would have been better, I think. But if the cover is the biggest hole I'm picking, Erica Blaney's certainly done something right with her first published novel. It won't set the world alight, but junior fantasy fans will enjoy it immensely.

My thanks to the nice people at Hodder for sending the book.

If they enjoyed Cybernation, they might also like Escape from Genopolis by T E Berry-Hart.

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