. Athena's Books: Totally YA Tuesday: Pucker...Up to a Great Book!
Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Totally YA Tuesday: Pucker...Up to a Great Book!

Sometimes science fiction hurts my head. So does fantasy, for that matter. Many of them become more plot stories than anything else and fill up pages with other realms and mythologies and a bunch of other stuff that can get way too involved. For instance, I'm reading Betwixt right now, and I found myself scanning through the whole Ring of Fire section in the middle book when the main characters start realizing they are part of the fairy world. Too much, too fast. I think I knew less than the characters. I really did try to read it with understanding, but then my brain gave up and figured I wouldn't get it either way. I'd rather see it than read it, so that's why I love movies like I Am Legend, Terminator, Avatar (which I have yet to see, but really want to!)

If I ever write a sci-fi/fantasy book, my model will be Pucker by Melanie Gideon. Like I metioned on Sunday's post, the entire story is packed into about 270 pages with a neat beginning, middle, and end. There is no need for a sequel or trilogy. Like other books of the genre, the main character, nicknamed Pucker because of his burnt face, is involved in another realm beyond Earth. In this case, it is a parallel universe hidden like bumps within Earth. There are portals to this parallel world and though the author describes Puckers's descent into Isaura and ascent back to Earth, it is through his voice--the voice of a seventeen year old boy who has about as much expertise and technical know-how as the average Joe living anywhere in the world. When you don't have the jargon, all you can do is describe the event in the familiar world of sight and touch. She includes a mere a paragraph for his trip into Isaura, and I can completely picture it:

Within seconds an invisible undertow sucks me under and away...I travel into the matter that separates the worlds. I float down through shafts of amber light. The current imprints itself like a thousand hands on my body.

I love that last line...he is transformed by the energy, but it is subtle. The current propels him forward like human hands all over his body.

As for his mission in Isaura, Pucker must retrieve his mother's seer skin to keep her from dying. His mother is tormented by prophecies and visison, and in a way, the seers kin will buffer the impact of her gift on her body and mind. The seer skin is like a second skin of a million tiny stars nearly sewn into those gifted with the skin. She no longer has it because it was removed from her body in Isaura before she left for Earth. Isaura is like Earth but without all the modern technologies and luxuries. In Isaura people still travel by horse and cart and live without electricity. But they can do other things. They can heal people, restore limbs, remove scars, restore sight. They can fortell eveyone's future on a daily basis. They allow humans to enter and work in their world as The Changed, or those who are in perfect physical form in the excahnge for service occupations. But physical change comes at a price to individual identity.

As you would guess, Pucker is torn between returning to Earth and remaining in Isaura. On Earth he is Pucker, nearly friendless, and without any hope of ever holding a girl. In Isaura he is Thomas, unimaginably handsome with many girls throwing themselves at him. And then there is Phaidra, one of the beautiful Changed. How can he return to the scars, to the pain of his isolation and mental anguish, to the strained relationship between mother and son? As a reader, you want Pucker to win. You want him to get his cake and eat it too, but I won't tell you whether he does or not.

All I have left to say is that Pucker is a very imaginative narrative that captivates from the start. There are so many beautiful, literary passages that read more like prose poetry:

She's a trafficker in possibility. It's a seam she's after, for every moment can go one of two ways, and now she must convince the moment to rethink itself, to move in a different direction. She massages the seam. She steams it open with her intention. Ans d as she does this, slowly my pain begins to dissipate.

WOW! She steams it open with her intention!
And my favorite:

For the first time in my life I forget I'm burned, and I'm just a boy and there is this girl and some invisible cord connects us.

But there's also another boy and it isn't me, and it's he who gets to touch her, he who gets to make her gasp.

One last thing...love the allusion to The Great War. I do teach history, after all.