Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Shade's Children - Garth Nix

Garth Nix's Shade's Children is something of a departure for him, as it's a Science Fiction novel, not a Fantasy one. In Nix's dystopian future everyone over the age of 14 disappears abruptly and without warning one morning, leaving empty cars, trains, buildings, etc. apart from the children under 14. The majority of the children were then rounded up and taken to Dorms where they are fed, clothed and educated until their 14th birthday. On that day, known as their Sad Birthday, the Overlords (humanoids from a parallel dimension who were responsible for effecting the Change) arrange for the children to be taken to the Meat Factory where their brains and muscles are removed for use in creating their Creatures. There are several types of creatures: Screamers, which work alone and can scream so loudly, the scream is overpowering; Trackers, who work in teams of three; Ferrets, who have blood-draining fangs, are considerably larger than normal ferrets, and work in groups of five; Myrmidions, who are the most humanoid in appearance and work in teams (called maniples) of seven; and Wingers, who (unsurprisingly) are winged creatures who work in teams of nine. Overseeing these creatures are the Myrmidion Masters and they report to the Overlords, of which there are seven: Red Diamond, Black Banner, Gold Claw, Grey Crescent, Blue Star, Emerald Crown and Silver Sun.

Nix's story opens with a boy called Gold-Eye (whose eyes are gold) being chased by Trackers and Myrmidions. He's trying to hide in a train but is found. He runs from the Trackers and Myrmidions and just as he's about to get caught, three children appear; two girls (Ella and Ninde) and a boy (Drum). They are Shade's Children. Shade is a hologram (like the Doctor in Star Trek: Voyager) of a scientist named Robert Ingman. He oversees a large group of children who live in a submarine and who are helping him to gather data and equipment in order to discover how the Change was effected, in the hope that it can be reversed.

Each child has a "Change Talent", something that they've only discovered they can do since the Change took place: Gold-Eye has premonitions of the future, what he calls "soon-to-be-now visions"; Ella can create objects apparently out of thin air - she envisages something she has seen (a razorblade, a hand grenade, gas masks) and it appears in her hands; Ninde can hear the thoughts of the Overlords' Creatures; Drum has telekinetic power.

Shade eventually establishes that the Change was effected by means of a Grand Projector of a kind of radiation that is not normally found in our reality. He builds himself a mobile holographic emitter, housed in a robotic spider, and he and the four children set out to destroy the Grand Projector which is in a tower on the top of nearby Mount Silverstone. Shade believes that once the Projector is destroyed, the Overlords will be forcibly returned to their own dimension, and everyone who has disappeared will be restored.

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Garth Nix fans might be interested to know that the British Science Fiction and Fantasy magazine SFX is hosting an Online Chat with Garth Nix on Wednesday August 23 at 8 pm (BST). If you're interested in reading people's comments and questions to Garth, and his replies, you can use the link above. If you want to post any comments or questions of your own, you'll need to register as a member of the forum - it only takes a few minutes and you don't have to fill out masses of forms. I'll be there myself - my username is Sass1.


Unknown said...

Shade's Children sounds interesting but horrifying. It reminds me a bit of John Christopher's Tripods series (from a few decades ago) but more intense.

I'll certainly check out the Garth Nix chat and try to make it! He's one of my favorite authors.

Michele said...

Actually I didn't find it that horrifying - and believe me, when it comes to horror, I'm squeamish ! I missed the Tripods series by John Christopher (although I found his Death of the Grass pretty gruesome when I read it at school - that and Z for Zachariah have always stuck in my head as being unnerving !

Garth Nix is one of my favourite authors too... The only book of his I've not managed to finish is Ragwitch - that was definitely too horrifying for me !

Sean L. said...

I think I glanced over the Tripod series, but this made a much more lasting impact on me. I've read it at least 4 times, but not within the last year. The entire book was an excellent dystopia, but it was the ending that struck me; a beautifully written piece that made me shed more than a few tears.

Michele said...

I liked the ending - and yes it made me cry too...