Nineteen years ago, a brain disease known as the Great Madness killed most of the world's population. The survivors all had something different about their minds. Now, at the start of adolescence, their children enter a trance-like state known as the Changeland and emerge either with special mental powers or as cannibalistic Ferals.
In the great forest of South West Australia, 13-year-old Arika and her twin brother Narrah go through the Changeland. They encounter an enemy known as the Anteater who feeds on human life. He exists both in the Changeland and in the outside world, and he wants the twins dead.
After their Changings, the twins have powers that let them fight their enemy and face their destiny on a long journey to an abandoned American military base on the northwest coast of Australia...if they can reach it before time runs out.
Children of the Different is a post-apocalyptic fantasy novel set among the varied landscapes and wildlife of Western Australia.
©2016 S. C. Flynn (P)2016 S. C. Flynn
This post-apocalyptic tale is set in Western Australia. 19 years ago, the Great Madness killed most of the world’s population. Now when children enter their adolescence, they go into a trance-like state, entering the Changeland, and may come out of it fairly normal or a bit deranged and prone to cannibalism. Arika and her twin brother Narrah are at that age and their adventures in the Changeland will alter them, and perhaps their small society, forever.
This tale was just a bit different from anything else I have read recently. First, I loved the setting and all the Australian animals that come into play throughout the tale. There’s even stromatolites! From dense forest to dry desert to cityscape to ocean-side village – this story covers a lot of ground. Then we have the Changeland, a place that can only be entered by your spirit through a trance-like state. Everything is warped in the Changeland. Sometimes a person sees images of cities healthy and whole before the Great Madness and sometimes a persons sees things as a they are now, but far, far from where they live. For both Arika and Narrah, they each run into the Anteater, which is like our Coyote trickster of the desert southwest here in the states. His motives aren’t clear until the end of the story, but he uses both charm and threats to set things in motion.
While Arika in undergoing her Change, her brother is out of the village when he comes across Weiran, who used to be part of the village before he went a bit feral after his own Change. Narrah ends up captured by a group of city people and hauled away. Once Arika comes back to reality, she insists on going after him but she has to sneak away to do so. Turah, another childhood friend who now has strange prophetic abilities, goes with her. Both Arika and Narrah will have some harrowing experiences before they are reunited. Once they do, there is the task of taking one of the few remaining military bases in the area! The plot kept me guessing the entire time. There’s a little Mad Max action too when folks take some of the few remaining functional vehicles on the last jog of the story.
This was an exciting story. At times, it was beautiful and strange, and at other times I was biting my nails in anticipation of what would happen to our heroes. The Changeland is an eerie, unpredictable place and adds an unexpected dimension to this post-apocalyptic tale. S. C. Flynn is an author to keep an eye on and see what he comes up with next.
I received a copy of this book at no cost from the author in exchange for an honest review.
The Narration: Stephen Briggs was a great choice for this tale. I loved his Australian accent he did for all the characters (except for the 1 or 2 minor characters who weren’t Australian). He also had this great gritty voice for this character Bowman who doesn’t show up until the second half of the story. Sometimes the volume did wiggle up and down a bit, but not so much I had to turn the volume down or risk ear damage. Over all, a great performance.
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There are plenty of post-apocalyptic and dystopian stories out there for younger readers, but I'm pleased to see that Children of the Different offers an alternative from the "same old same old" for its audience.
The novel falls somewhere between the middle-reader and young-adult categories, and it follows the compelling characters of thirteen year-old Arika and her twin brother Narrah, inheritors of a world ravaged by the Great Madness, as they experience their coming-of-age via the dreamlike otherworld of the Changeland. S.C. Flynn blends science fiction and fantasy, original ideas and indigenous tradition, to create an imaginative journey with high stakes and able protagonists vividly set in Western Australia.
What I appreciated most in this story is how it empowers young readers, giving them credit for courage and will and agency, and refusing to talk down to them. The final takeaway is one I definitely can get behind: technology can cause problems and it can also offer solutions. What science does, whether it is "good" or "bad" when applied, ultimately depends on the choices of the individuals who use it. Arika and Narrah wrest hope from apparent hopelessness, and the reader imagines that they will choose to heal their people and their world.
The solid narration by Stephen Briggs is helpful, because his accent and pronunciations assist listeners in feeling like they're in Western Australia.
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