30 May 2007

Silver World Class

I read Cliff McNish’s Silver Sequence out of order, zipping through the second title, Silver City, as part of the Cybils Awards judging and reading the first, The Silver Child, some months later.

After those two books, I expressed some disappointment that McNish hadn’t shown us more about his young characters before their lives and their bodies are changed by some supernatural, extraterrestrial force. They change without intending to and often feel compelled to act in certain ways, so we rarely see these characters decide to do things. And tough decisions are key to understanding who characters are.

Now I’ve finished the third volume, Silver World, and found it a powerful ending to a haunting trilogy. We still don’t know much about the children’s lives before the novels begin (more thoughts about that someday). But we do see them struggle with tough decisions in this volume. Their long-threatened confrontation with the interstellar monster called the Roar becomes a strategic chess match, each side trying to anticipate the other’s moves and lull the enemy into traps.

McNish raises the stakes immediately by removing Hannah’s father, the only adult, from the little community of guardians. The Roar starts screaming louder. Animals join the children of the world in the little haven of Coldharbour. Millions of creatures on the other side of Earth perish. And now the kids have to find most solutions for themselves, with time running out. It’s a gripping read.

Which isn’t to say that I don’t still have unanswered questions: about the kids, about how those Unearthers’ drill hands are supposed to work, about how the enemy is ultimately trussed up, and so on.

Most important, I’m not sure who created the Barrier around Coldharbour. At the beginning of Silver City, narrator Thomas explains that it’s appeared since the last volume, excluding adults from the area where children feel compelled to come. The series offers four possible sources for such supernatural phenomena: the Roar, her underground child, Earth’s Protector, and the kids’ own evolving powers.

In Silver City a boy named Tanni says of the adults, “I reckon they’re being kept out for their own protection,” which implies the Barrier reflects a benevolent force. But later there’s reason to suspect Tanni’s judgment. The Barrier expands as more kids arrive at Coldharbour, implying it's linked somehow to their needs and powers. Yet as Silver World begins, mind-reading Hannah thinks the Roar has subtly moved the Barrier, implying that monster also created it--but why? Or does the Barrier arise from how all those unearthly forces push against each other? Do any Silver Sequence fans out there have an answer?

No comments: