Review: Quicksilver by RJ Anderson

Quicksilver
RJ Anderson

Orchard Books
Released May 2, 2013
376 pages
YA / Science Fiction

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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.

Ultraviolet kind of blew my mind. It was a fascinating story about a girl with synesthesia that thinks she may have killed this girl in her school who disappeared into thin air. It mostly takes place in a mental institution and deals with her day to day struggles with the other patients, her guilt with the murder everyone thinks she committed, but she can’t remember, and therapists who don’t buy into her extreme synesthesia. At least that’s what it’s about until about two-thirds of the way through when Anderson took a seriously sharp left turn and left me screaming at the book (in the very best way possible).

MASSIVE SPOILERS FOR ULTRAVIOLET AHEAD – YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED

I almost put MASSIVE BLACK HOLE SPOILERS AHEAD, but that in itself could be considered a spoiler because two-thirds of the way through Anderson decides to bring in aliens. ALIENS! And long distance travel through worm holes and things just get badshit crazy. And it is BRILLIANT! And I’m going on and on about this first book because I have given myself space to finally properly fangirl over it because I would have to say all this stuff for the concept of Quicksilver to make any sense. So yeah, crazy girl isn’t so crazy, she just witnessed her arch-enemy who was unknowingly an alien get sucked back into her alien satellite lab where evil aliens were doing tests on her.

It’s all really batshit amazingly crazy, and even nearly a year later, I can’t stop grinning when I think about that book.

So Quicksilver picks up a little after Alison (the previously mentioned synesthesia sufferer) and Tori (the alien girl who didn’t realize she was an alien) return home and have attempted to provide law enforcement a viable reason for Tori’s disappearance. When it seems a particular cop is unsatisfied with the story Tori has come up with and a lab starts calling about test results coming back oddly, she and her parents decide they must disappear. Like move across the country, change their names sort of disappear. And that’s how Tori becomes Niki and Alison is, for the most part, written out of the book.

Niki is an engineering genius. She understands computers and machines as though they are part of herself. She can build just about anything electronic down to creating her own microchip type things, and a lot of Quicksilver is the jargon in Niki’s head as she tries to explain all the highly technical things she’s having to build in an attempt to keep the evil alien that kidnapped her in the last book from finding her again.

Quicksilver didn’t shock me and didn’t leave me cursing at the book and didn’t have a blindsiding shocker twists, but I also didn’t expect it to. After you throw in aliens, it’s a little hard to beat that. Niki isn’t quite as engaging as Alison was, but then again, her plight is a standard one of staying hidden from people meaning to hurt her. She teams up with an unassuming boy named Milo, who inadvertently discovers the aliens when he walks into her bedroom the same time that Sebastian, the nice alien who saved the girls in the previous book, zaps himself over to Earth. Misunderstandings, shenanigans and betrayals follow.

I missed Alison, but Niki is an intriguing enough character. The jargon got a bit much at times, but having Milo as the normal person thrown into this abnormal situation helped balance things out. There isn’t so much a romance involved and Sebastian is kind of a dick through most of it, but it’s still one of the more unusual YA science fiction novels I’ve had the chance to read. This one probably isn’t for anyone with short attention spans or any reader that wants near-constant action because outside of a few scenes, it’s pretty low key. It is, however, unusually compelling and full of genuine science fiction aspects. This isn’t superficial scifi, where someone happens to have a cool gadget that does scifi-ish things.

Anderson is an impressive writer. In someone else’s hands, the engineering talk could have easily bogged down the story completely or made the book read more like a textbook than an adventure story. She balances out the brainy with the witty and creates a nicely balanced book that, while not quite as memorable as Ultraviolet, is still a highly engaging read with interesting characters going through unusual things. I’d definitely recommend this series for something off the more mainstream YA scifi path.