Author: Philip Webb
Genre: YA Dystopian
Publication Date: March 25, 2014
Format: Hardcover, 272 Pages
ISBN-10: 0545557011 (Scholastic)
ISBN-13: 978-0545557016 (Scholastic)
Reviewed by: Jessie
The world stopped turning long before Megan was born. Ever since the Visitors shattered the moon and stilled the Earth, infinite sunset is all anyone has known. But now Megan is on a renegade mission. Riding her trusty steed Cisco, backed up by her posse, Kelly and Luis, she ventures out of her Texas hometown and sets off on a journey across the ravaged American West in search of her father. To find him, she must face the Zone, a notorious landscape where aliens hide and laws of nature do not apply.
The desert can play deadly tricks on the mind. To solve the mystery of not just her missing father but the paralyzed planet itself, Megan must survive it.
Quick & Dirty: A fascinating setting literally throws the characters every which way on their journey to get answers to what’s happened to the world and possibly how to save it. A refreshing read exploding with creativity and adventure.
Opening Sentence: Leaning against the doorpost of the smithy, I pretend it is a normal day.
Anything can happen, and does, in Philip Webb’s Where the Rock Splits the Sky. We start with a typical old western town, complete with horses and a total lack of technology, only to find that we are actually in the future, where “something” has stopped the technology from working. The first couple chapters even involve the sheriff and his “last-stand situation” in the jail house, but then we learn that the major scuffles on earth aren’t with your typical outlaws, but actually with aliens. Given the unique premise of the book, it would seem harder to set up the book without a lot of verbage, but Webb delves right into the action and just keeps it coming. We actually do not learn a ton about the aliens or anything else until later. The author obviously intended it that way so I won’t give away any of that in this review.
Webb does a phenomenal job of building the setting and the characters. Although the setting is in a dystopian era, almost all the elements he uses are familiar. It is difficult not to think that this story would make an awesome movie, but honestly, since the author did his job in describing each adventure in detail, this adventure is much better as a book for those that enjoy reading. I think there is a lot more connection with the characters this way. Sometimes the detail gets a little wordy and confusing, but the book overall isn’t so long that it would be considered tedious by any means, just wordy in parts, more so at the end. Since Webb gets right down to business at the beginning of the book, there wasn’t quite enough to explain the ending, which was somewhat abrupt and disjointed. The reader is hit with quite a bit of information at once that is never adequately explained. The experience to get to that point is better this way, and the important loose ends are tied up, but it does seem to leave us a little confused. Another reason for this is that we are limited to Megan’s point-of-view rather than any sort of all-knowing narrator, and she learns a lot about herself along the journey, and even more at the end. The point of the book becomes more about her discovery of self than what has happened to the world as a whole, and so we end with the focus on her.
Megan is a driven, matter-of-fact character, and in order to complete her journey, she has to start putting more trust in her friends, Luis and Kelly. Luis is a sweet guy, soft-spoken and protective, but Megan’s relationship with him is confusing. This is one element in the novel that is vague and underutilized. Luis’s character could have been magnified from the convenient role that he plays, to a necessary role that he could have played. He starts out as someone Megan (and the audience) could really fall in love with, but his character doesn’t keep developing throughout the book. Kelly is sassy and lovable, she really is the perfect complement to Megan’s totally serious character. She gets into trouble with her shenanigans, but doesn’t think so hard that she can’t get them out of other shenanigans when necessary. One interesting twist of the western theme of this book is that the horses aren’t just necessary tools in the plot, but are actual characters themselves, with not only names, but personalities. As such, we develop a relationship with the horses and actually care about the role they play in the plot, which adds to the experience.
There were several things in this novel that were refreshing. The first was that the characters were believable. They didn’t fit into typical overused stereotypes. They all had flaws and made mistakes and had to rely on each other. They would be extremely difficult to label, but that made them more relatable. As a dystopian novel, the plot wasn’t stereotypical either. We start out thinking the aliens are stereotypical but by the end it would be difficult to put them in any alien category, and even at the end we are questioning the label of “alien” at all. The setting in this novel is perhaps the biggest fresh breath of dystopian air. Nothing about it is predictable, and yet, we can still understand it. It is simply spectacular and this book is a perfect read for those searching for something new and clean.
Wesley leads us toward a cauldron set upon a fire of dung bricks. A tiny crone picks up a net of black shapes and smacks it against the cave wall. It’s not until I get closer through the fumes and steam that I see the stunned bodies of bats in the netting–their pug faces like a hoard of miniature demons.
She stares at me through her cataracts and guts the bats one by one with a practiced swipe of her cleaver, then tosses the into the pot.
“Great,” mumbles Kelly. “Bat stew cooked on a bat-shit fire by an old bat.”
I nudge her in the ribs, because I feel sure that Kelly’s humor will not be appreciated in this place.
“Thanks all the same,” says Kelly, aiming an injured glare at me. “But I just ate at the last town.”
“Might as well get used to it, sugar,” snaps the crone. “Bats is all we got. Exceptin’ turnips. And they done shot with maggots this year.”
FTC Advisory: Chicken House/Scholastic provided me with a copy of Where the Rock Splits the Sky. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.
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