Author: R.J. Anderson
Genre: Science Fiction, Speculative Fiction, Young Adult
Publisher: Carolrhoda Lab
Publication Date: March 2013
Hardcover: 320 Pages
Back in her hometown, Tori Beaugrand had everything a teenaged girl could want—popularity, money, beauty. But she also had a secret. A secret that could change her life in an instant, or destroy it.
Now she’s left everything from her old life behind, including her real name and Alison, the one friend who truly understood her. She can’t escape who and what she is. But if she wants to have anything like a normal life, she has to blend in and hide her unusual… talents.
Plans change when the enigmatic Sebastian Faraday reappears and gives Tori some bad news: she hasn’t escaped her past. In fact, she’s attracted new interest in the form of an obsessed ex-cop turned investigator for a genetics lab.
She has one last shot at getting her enemies off her trail and winning the security and independence she’s always longed for. But saving herself will take every ounce of Tori’s incredible electronics and engineering skills—and even then, she may need to sacrifice more than she could possibly imagine if she wants to be free.
Stand alone or series: Companion Novel/Book 2 in the Ultraviolet series
How did I get this book: e-ARC from the Publisher
Format (e- or p-): e-ARC via NetGalley
Why did I read this book: I *loved* Ultraviolet, the first book in this series (duology?) and was ecstatic when I heard that there would be a companion novel. As soon as I saw it on NetGalley, I swooped this puppy up.
**WARNING: This review contains slight, but unavoidable, spoilers for Ultraviolet. You do not have to have read Ultraviolet to read Quicksilver, but if you want to be unspoiled for the first book, you should probably start there.**
Three months ago, perfect, popular seventeen year-old Tori Beaugrand disappeared into thin air. And then, just as inexplicably, Tori returns home, bloodied and beaten, but alive and whole.
Tori’s disappearance is a mystery to the police and her friends, and she claims that she cannot remember anything of her abduction, or the weeks she was gone. More than anything, Tori wants everyone to forget, and to move on with her life as though nothing has happened.
Of course, the truth isn’t so simple. Tori’s disappearance is one that spans time and space, her secret one that no one – save for friend Alison and scientist Sebastian Faraday – can ever know. You see, Tori isn’t like anyone else on Earth. And now she’s being hunted by scientists who want to study her unique DNA, by a rogue cop that can’t give up without knowing Tori’s story, and by one of her own kind who will stop at nothing to continue his grand experiment.
Tori and her parents uproot themselves, changing their names and their appearances, in the hopes that they can stay safe. Now, Tori is Nikki – a brunette with a pixie cut and dark gray-blue eyes, who is homeschooled and works a part-time job at the local supermarket, trying to keep under the radar. All that goes to hell when Sebastian Faraday shows up in Tori/Nikki’s life again, enlisting her help to build a device that could end their trouble once and for all. But to be successful, it will take every ounce of Nikki’s unique skills – but more importantly, it means she will have to place her trust in others.
The companion book to 2011′s Ultraviolet, Quicksilver is a fantastic science fiction novel from R.J. Anderson. Featuring yet another awesome heroine and a surprisingly high-stakes, unflinching plot, Quicksilver, to put it plainly, rocks. In other words: I loved this book.
As I’ve noted before, you don’t necessarily have had to read Ultraviolet to dive into this book, but I strongly suggest you read that novel first in order to have a fuller understanding of the events and key players in Quicksilver. While Ultraviolet was synesthesiac Alison’s book, about her false confession of murder and her institutionalization, Quicksilver tells the story of the girl who Alison supposedly killed – the perfect, beautiful girl who has it all, Tori. Except, Tori doesn’t really have it all; in fact, her life is a carefully constructed façade. Adopted as a small child by her loving parents, Tori has always been a bit different – she’s got unparalleled skill when it comes to assembling, visualizing and modifying technology, and a knack for memorizing numbers and easily solving complex mathematical problems. But more than her mechanical skills, Tori guards a much deeper secret – she’s from a place far, far away, sent to Earth as a baby as a kind of twisted experiment.
Yep, that’s right. Just like Ultraviolet before it, Quicksilver is a psychological thriller but it’s also firmly a science fiction novel, complete with transporter devices, wormholes, and, yes, that eponymous element of quicksilver. And I’m happy to say that both the science fictional elements and technology elements are executed beautifully. Similarly, from a plotting perspective, Quicksilver rocks. Equal parts fugitive thriller and scifi blockbuster, you could say that this novel is kind of a page-turner. That’s not to say that depth is sacrificed for action – quite the contrary. There are betrayals and hidden motives and resonant emotional connections. And the stakes are HIGH, people! The book kicks into high gear and the last quarter of Quicksilver is crazy intense. (In particular, Tori makes a gutsy, terrifying choice in the late chapters of the book and my goodness is it dramatic.)
And then there are the characters. I loved, loved, loved heroine Tori. And now, this COULD be considered a mild spoiler, but I’m divulging anyway because I think it is a vitally important part of (and draw to) the book. That is: main character Tori is an asexual protagonist.
“Milo,” I said, “I’m going to tell you something I’ve only ever told one other person. And when I do, I . . . I hope you’ll understand.” Passionately hoped, in fact. Because if he said any of the things Lara had said to me when I told her, it would be hard to forgive him for it.
“I know,” he said. “You’re gay, right?”
“No,” I said. “I’m not sexually attracted to anyone. At all. Ever.”
Tori’s not celibate (which is a choice); she’s asexual (a type of sexual orientation).1 It’s rare to come across an asexual protagonist in fiction – especially in YA fiction! – but Anderson does a phenomenal job of carefully portraying Tori’s asexuality, without making this Tori’s Sole Defining Characteristic, or worse, portraying her asexuality in a superficial or offhand way. I love the careful distinction that shows Tori is a young woman who feels love, and rage, and loneliness – she’s not sexually attracted to anyone, but she feels and yearns for emotional connection (I should also note that Tori is asexual but not – to my reading – aromantic). And finally, I love that Tori’s asexuality is NOT misunderstood or treated as a part of her unique DNA, or as the result of some childhood trauma, or some other such humbug. I love that author R.J. Anderson directly addresses and refutes this in the book. That is awesome.2
And you know what else is awesome? Tori’s new friend, Milo, is a Korean Canadian, and the book skillfully deals with questions of interracial relationships and pressures, once again without feeling false or superficial. The relationship that unfolds between Tori and Milo is complicated, to say the least, but its one of my favorite YA relationships in a very, very long time. Heck, I’ll just come out and say it – Tori and Milo are one of my favorite pairs of characters…ever.
With its skillful genre-busting, plotting and standout characters, Quicksilver is every bit as wonderful as Ultraviolet. Heck, I think I may even love it more than that first book. Absolutely recommended, and in the running for one of my favorite books of 2013.
Notable Quotes/Parts: From the Prologue:
(The distortion that results when a reconstructed signal is different from the original)
On June 7, the year I turned sixteen, I vanished without a trace.
On September 28 of the same year I came back, with a story so bizarre that only my parents would ever believe it and a secret I couldn’t share even with them.
And four weeks later I woke up in my hometown on Saturday morning as Victoria Beaugrand and went to bed that night in another city as completely different person.
That last part wasn’t as bad as you might think. There’s something exciting about reinventing yourself, even if it means leaving all your friends and the only life you’ve ever known behind.
My only fear was that I might not have made myself different enough.
Rating: 8 – Excellent, leaning towards a 9
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