Friday, November 24, 2006

Book Review: The Silver Sequence

The Silver Child
Silver City

by Cliff McNish

The Silver Sequence is a strange, frightening, and exciting series about a group of special children defending the world against a threat from outer space.

In book 1, The Silver Child, six children begin to transform in bizarre ways. Thomas develops a healing power that the others call Beauty. Helen begins to read minds. Emily and Freda become insect-like, skittering about on all fours. Walter becomes a giant. And Milo undergoes the most extensive transformation, a tranformation that he might not survive even with all Thomas' healing power. All six children are drawn to Coldharbour, a part of the city which is abandoned except for the garbage dumps. The children are the only ones who can hear a noise that they call The Roar, which they understand is a danger approaching from outer space. Somehow, these six special children will have to use their powers to defend the Earth against the Roar.

The Silver Child is a horrifying but mesmerizing book. There are other books where children transform and become saviors, but in most books it's depicted as a beautiful and wonderful thing. This book shows what it must be like to suddenly find your body or your mind changing in ways beyond your control, and to be yanked away from everything you know. It must be a terrible, frightening thing, and the changes that the children go through in The Silver Child are just that: terrible and frightening. Even the changes that seem like they would be cool, or at least innocuous, like Thomas' Beauty and Helen's mind reading ability, are shown to have their terrifying side. Imagine not being able to shut out the thoughts of those around you, including all the animals and insects. Imagine feeling your healing power yanked out of you whenever there is someone in need, whether you want to or not. And the changes that Milo goes through are so much worse in that his body is completely changing.

And yet, there is a beauty in the changes too. Emily and Freda are loving and lovable, and they are the glue that hold this unusual family together. Walter would do anything for his new family. And as horrible as Milo's changes are, in the end he becomes the most amazing and beautiful of all.

While The Silver Child sets the stage for what is to come, in book 2, Silver City, the battle with The Roar really begins. All the world's children are now coming to Coldharbour, and the first six are busy trying to use their special talents to care for and protect the new arrivals. Thomas discovers a strange group of children called the Unearthers. Thomas had tried to withhold his Beauty from Milo when Milo really needed it, so now Thomas feels compelled to give the Unearthers as much Beauty as he can, in spite of his misgivings about their transformation. Helen uses her powers to reach out to the Roar and try to find out as much about it as she can. Milo protects the children that have arrived in Coldharbour, and Walter does his best to care for them. And Emily and Freda go on a perilous journey, a journey which will take them to the limits of their endurance and beyond, to find the only being who may be able to help them against the Roar.

The Silver Sequence is a remarkable story about transformation and personal sacrifice. In the crowded fantasy genre, The Silver Sequence is truly unique and imaginative. It's not always a comfortable book to read—at times it's so shocking that you want to put it down, and yet you can't stop reading it. You really come to care about the characters, and even when they act selfishly in the face of such horror, it only makes them more human and makes you love them more. It's the kind of book that you can't stop thinking about even after you've turned the last page.

Book three of The Silver Sequence, Silver World, is due out in the U.S. in March. (It's already available in the U.K.)

Silver City is a Cybils nominee.

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